Michael Norman wins stacked 400m in Doha

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Michael Norman staked a claim for Olympic 400m favorite status, beating a field that included an Olympic gold medalist, the reigning U.S. champion and the the world silver medalist on Friday.

Norman, the fastest man in this Olympic cycle (43.45 seconds) who eased up in the 2019 Worlds semifinals injured, clocked 44.27 at a Diamond League meet in Doha.

Norman pulled away in the world’s fastest time this year, prevailing by three tenths over world silver medalist Anthony Zambrano of Colombia. Zambrano was followed by U.S. champion Fred Kerley (44.60) and 2012 Olympic champion Kirani James of Grenada (44.61).

The race included the primary Tokyo Olympic medal contenders save Rio gold medalist and world-record holder Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa, plagued by injuries the last three and a half years. And 2019 World champion Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas, who was injured in his most recent race last week.

Norman, who was fifth in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials 200m just after his senior year in high school, has credentials at 100m (personal best 9.86 seconds) and 200m (handed Noah Lyles his only defeat in this Olympic cycle). But the 400m is his focus, and he could bring the Olympic title back to the U.S., after Americans managed a singled bronze in the event between 2012 and 2016.

Norman and Kerley are favorites to grab two of the three individual Olympic 400m spots at Trials in Eugene, Oregon, next month.

Full Doha results are here. The next Diamond League meet is June 10 in Florence, Italy.

In other events Friday, two-time Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce won the 100m in 10.84 seconds, beating a field that lacked the world’s fastest woman this year, American Sha’Carri Richardson, who was entered and withdrew. Richardson ran 10.72 last month. Rio gold medalist and fellow Jamaican Elaine Thompson also withdrew days before the meet.

American Kenny Bednarek edged Olympic and world silver medalist Andre De Grasse of Canada in the 200m, 19.88 to 19.89. Bednarek, who ran for Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa, before turning pro in 2019, ranks second in the world since the start of 2020 behind Lyles, the world champion.

American Rai Benjamin won the 400m hurdles in 47.38 seconds. Doha marked the first time any of the 2019 World Championships 400m hurdles medalists faced each other since those worlds. Benjamin, the world silver medalist, beat Qatar’s Abderrahman Samba, the world bronze medalist, in a battle between the joint-third-fastest men in history. Samba was fourth in 48.26.

At the Olympics, Benjamin, Samba and world champion Karsten Warholm are expected to produce fireworks and, potentially, break Kevin Young‘s world record of 46.78 seconds from the 1992 Olympics. Warholm, who was not in Doha, is the second-fastest man in history at 46.87.

Colombian Yulimar Rojas won a triple jump that included the top four from both the 2016 Olympics and 2019 World Championships. Rojas, who last Saturday recorded the second-farthest jump in history of 15.43 meters, won Friday with a 15.15-meter leap.

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