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Friday, 11 August 2017 19:59

FRED KERLEY'S VIEW OF THE 400: TEAM USA SHALL RETURN TO GOLD MEDAL DAYS OF OLD

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Fred Kerley Fred Kerley www.PhotoRun.net
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
Fred Kerley was clearly a most-unhappy-fella. 
 
"I am not disappointed," he declared.
 
It was written all over his unsmiling face, peering downward, but he wasn't going to tell you that.
 
The Texas A&Mer came to London loaded up with collegiate glory, as the NCAA indoor and outdoor 400-meter champion, and owner of the second fastest 400-meter time of 2017, the 43.70 he ran taking down the all-time NCAA record put in the books by an Olympic champion, Quincy Watts, a full quarter-century ago.
 
It was all in the timing - and we don't mean the highest-tech Seiko apparatus
Clocking everything going on at these 16th IAAF World Championships down
to - seemingly - zillionths of a miliisecond. That 43.70 took place a full 10 weeks ago - at the NCAA West Regionals in Austin, Texas. 
 
And that 43.70 would have run off with the gold medal on this fifth night of the World Championships. And it would not have been close.
The race went to South Africa's Wayde Van Niekerk.
In 43.98. And that was not close, either.
 
Runner-up Steve Gardiner of Bahamas crossed the line in 44.41, third-placer
Abdalelah Haroun of Qatar in 44.48.
 
Sure this was a slightly chilly evening in London Town, which cost something
time-wise, but facts are facts and 43.70 once around the track would have been fast enough to win it all here - and easily.
 
"It is amazing to win the world title," said Van Niekerk, who now aims to win a second one, in the 200 meters. "It is a blessing. I hope the fans (over 55,000 of them as the 2017 Worlds continue to break attendance records) enjoyed that."
 
Fred Kerley, running out of the tough lane two with its tighter bend, crossed the line in 45.23. It was good for seventh place in a race with seven runners.
 
Kerley, the lone American finalist, did not consider that good running.
The field was booked to be eight runners - until Isaac Makwala of
Botswana was stunningly barred from the building, as the alleged carrier of a virus that British health officials determined posed a danger to everyone on the premises.
 
Once upon a time, Team USA men ruled the 400-meter world as completely as
His/Her Majesty's Navy ruled the world's waves.
 
Check it out, check it out.
 
Of the 29 Olympic 400 finals since the very first in 1896, American runners won 20 of them, including the first four, four more straight from 1956-68, and then a run of seven more in succession from 1984-2008.
 
And we skipped - or boycotted ourselves - out of the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
Of the first 15 400's in the World Championships, 10 went to USA vest-wearers.
 
But nothing is forever and ever, a factoid the rest of the world is learning.
The 400-meter world, to be specific.
 
In the personage of 25-year-old Van Niekerk, who took down the 1999 Michael Johnson world record of 43.18 with his astounding 43.03 from the outside lane at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the point is made with added emphasis.
 
Kerley was in no mood to hear any such things.
 
"I just didn't do good in my race," he said in the mixed zone, after he'd come in from the track.
 
Has it been too long a season for him?
 
"No," he said, "it's just in your mind-set."
 
Does South Africa, or the Bahamas or, say, Botswana (which in Baboloki Thebe qualified a second finalist) rule the event once called USA property?
 
"We still own it (the 400)," Kerley told you, clearly ired by the question. 
 
"I know we're going back to [dominating] it, and, you know what, we're going back to it soon.
 
"Van Niekerk? He just loves what he does, and he works at it.
 
"Well, we [Americans] love what we do, too.
 
"This is the biggest stage I've ever been on in my career and getting here is something pretty big, too. I am not hanging my head. We're all coming back strong, and coming back soon."
 
Fred Kerley & Co. return to Olympic Stadium to run the 4x400 relay, with prelims Saturday morning and final Sunday night.
 
In this nation where legal betting on the Worlds is a growing activity, Team USA remains strongly favored to win it.
 
So we - and Fred Kerley & Co. - shall see.
As ever, check your local listings.
 
NOTE: Team USA men have won nine of the 15 previous 4x400 relay finals at Worlds.But three other American "wins" in the event were bounced from the books in subsequent doping violations.
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