Mumbai, July 19 (IANS) While the focus of the Olympics has always been on 100m – the blue ribbon in all competitions – and 200m, 400m is no less glamorous as some of the biggest names have competed in the event and corner glory .
Michael Johnson from the United States in men’s and Marie-Jose Perec in France in the women’s section are some of the 400m legends who have world and Olympic records for years and the only ones to win two gold medals at the Olympics in successive editions. .
Johnson won his first Olympic gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and defended his title four years later in Sydney. His Olympic record of 43.49 stood the test of time for two decades before being broken in Rio 2016, while Marie-Jose, whose record of 48.25 still stands, won the first title in 1992 and defended it four years later in Atlanta.
In Tokyo, South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk has a chance to join Johnson as the second male quarter-mile to win two Olympic 400m gold medals. In 2016, Van Niekerk won the men’s 400m gold medal with a world record time of 43.03 seconds, which improved the time of 43.18 seconds set by Johnson at the 1999 World Championships in Seville, Spain.
But van Niekerk is likely to face a tough challenge from Americans Michael Norman, Randolf Ross and Michael Cherry. Norman has the best time of 43.46 in the 400m, but has done 43.06 in a relay in 2018.
While it is difficult to replicate this timing, Van Niekerk himself does not appear in his element recently and has a best of 44.56 seconds this season. He has struggled with injuries in recent seasons since winning the gold in Rio.
He was out of action for more than a year after seriously injuring his knee while playing in a charity rugby match in October 2017. Although he has returned to action, he has struggled to regain his 2016 form.
Like Van Niekerk, Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas is in line to repeat her performance with a gold medal in 2016. Shaunae had won the gold medal in 49.44 seconds with American veteran Allyson Felix taking silver in 49.51.
Both Shaunae and Allyson will go head-to-head again, with the American legend hoping to win a medal in her fifth Olympics. Allyson has won six gold and two silver medals at the Olympics, starting with 200m silver in Athens in 2004. She switched to 400m at the Olympics in Rio and hopes to give Shaunae a run for her money.
Shaunae, 27, has the second-best time this season – 49.08 in April – and hopes to improve it in Tokyo.
Christine Mboma from Namibia has clocked the best time of the year so far, 48.54 seconds, in June, but she is excluded from the Olympics over high testosterone levels.
This means that the race will again be between Shaunae and Allyson. But given their shape and increasing age, will they be able to get close to Marie-Jose’s record of 48.25?
bsk / akm