James vs. Merritt; men’s 400 meters a head-to-head at World Championships

LaShawn Merritt, Kirani James
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What is the best individual rivalry in track and field? It may lie in the men’s 400 meters.

American LaShawn Merritt, 27, won the 2008 Olympic and 2009 world titles.

Grenada’s Kirani James, 20, won the 2012 Olympic and 2011 world titles.

It may look like a case of young surpassing old based on major medals, but the quarter-mile is still a two-man race going into Tuesday’s final at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow (1:50 p.m. ET, Universal Sports).

World Track and Field Championships broadcast schedule

Especially when you look at the top 11 times this season going into the World Championships.

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“It’ll be a showdown, but in these championships you can’t count anybody out,” Merritt said in a phone interview from Moscow. “It’s going to be a fast race where the both of us are going to go at it.”

They’ve gone at it a few times before this year. James won in Shanghai in May. Then Merritt crossed first in Eugene, Ore., in June. James took their final meeting in Paris in July with a world-leading time of 43.96 to Merritt’s 44.09.

“We’ve been going back and forth all year,” Merritt said. “The margins of victory have been small margins.”

James and Merritt are aiming to become the third men to win multiple world titles in the 400, joining Michael Johnson and Jeremy Wariner. Thirteen men have run better than 44.10 all time: 12 Americans, including Merritt (43.75 personal best), and James (43.94).

“We talk,” Merritt said of James. “He’s cool. I guess he thinks I’m pretty cool. It’s the respect for the event, to be able to run certain times. It takes a lot of dedication and hard work. The both of us know that.

“He respects me. I respect him, but at the end of the day when the bell goes off, we’re all competitors.”

Now that he’s an NCAA champion, world junior champion, world champion and Olympic champion, James’ eye is on the world record of 43.18 held by Johnson. He was given a large victory parade in Grenada after winning the nation’s first Olympic medal, but he stays simple training at the University of Alabama.

“It has changed tremendously, title-wise, but I just try to keep it the same,” James told Universal Sports.

Merritt’s defense of his Olympic title in London didn’t go as planned. He suffered a hamstring injury between the Olympic trials and the Games and did not complete his opening heat in London.

This came a year after being passed by James in the final 25 meters at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. James beat Merritt by .03 of a second.

Merritt’s goal from the start of the season has been retaking the World Championship. He’s confident of beating the field, including James.

“I feel like I haven’t run a race this year where I couldn’t go back and correct more than five things,” Merritt said.

Medal Picks
Gold: James
Silver: Merritt
Bronze: Tony McQuay (USA)

Alpine skiing to test new format for combined race

Alpine Skiing Combined
Getty
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Alpine skiing officials will test a new format for the combined event, a race that is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

French newspaper L’Equipe reported that the International Ski Federation (FIS) will test a new team format for the combined, which has been an individual event on the Olympic program since 1988. L’Equipe reported that a nation can use a different skier for the downhill and slalom in the new setup, quoting FIS secretary general Michel Vion.

For example, the U.S. could use Breezy Johnson in the downhill run and sub her out for Mikaela Shiffrin in the slalom run, should the format be adopted into senior competition.

The format will be tested at the world junior championships in January in St. Anton, Austria, according to the report.

In response to the report, a FIS spokesperson said, “Regarding the new format of the combined is correct, and our directors are working on the rules so for the moment the only thing we can confirm is that there will be this new format for the Alpine combined that has been proposed by the athletes’ commission.”

Some version of the combined event has been provisionally included on the 2026 Olympic program, with a final IOC decision on its place coming by April.

This will be the third consecutive World Cup season with no combined events. Instead, FIS has included more parallel races in recent years. The individual combined remains on the biennial world championships program.

L’Equipe also reported that the mixed team parallel event, which is being dropped from the Olympics, will also be dropped from the biennial world championships after this season.

“There is nothing definitive about that yet, but it is a project in the making,” a FIS spokesperson said in commenting on the report.

Vion said the mixed team event, which debuted at the Olympics in 2018, was not a hit at the Beijing Games and did not draw a strong audience, according to L’Equipe.

The World Cup season starts in two weeks with the traditional opening giant slaloms in Soelden, Austria.

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Ironman Kona World Championships return, live on Peacock

Ironman Kona World Championship
Ironman
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The Ironman Kona World Championships return after a three-year hiatus with a new format, live on Peacock on Thursday and Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

The Ironman, held annually in Hawaii since 1978, and in Kailua-Kona since 1981, was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world championships made a one-time-only stop in St. George, Utah, on May 7 to make up for the 2021 cancellation. The winners were Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, the Tokyo Olympic triathlon champion, and Swiss Daniela Ryf, who bagged her fifth Ironman world title.

WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona men’s pro race, Saturday, 12 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Both entered Kailua-Kona, where the races were now split between two days — Thursday for the women and Saturday for the men. Chelsea Sodaro won the women’s race, ending a 20-year American victory drought.

An Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon — totaling 140.6 miles of racing. It takes top triathletes eight hours to complete. Very arguably, it crowns the world’s fittest man and woman.

Blummenfelt, 28 and in his Kona debut, will try to become the youngest male champion in Kona since German Normann Stadler in 2005. His top challengers include countryman Gustav Iden, the two-time reigning Half Ironman world champion, and German Patrick Lange, the 2017 and 2018 Ironman Kona winner.

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