Cedenio, Quow, Lalonde, McKnight in semis
Trinidad and Tobago scored a perfect three from three in the first round of the IAAF World Championship men's 400 metres event, at the Bird's Nest Stadium here in Beijing, China, yesterday.
Machel Cedenio, Renny Quow and Lalonde Gordon all advanced to the semi-final round, and will be back on the track today, bidding for championship race lanes.
Cedenio did not expect to run as fast as he did in the opening round. He had no choice, however, but to turn it on coming home. Trailing the heat one front-runners at the top of the straight, the 19-year-old's customary strong finish propelled him into second spot in 44.54 seconds. American David Verburg won in 44.43.
“I was surprised,” Cedenio told the Express. “Normally first round is 45. I actually ran my second fastest time in the prelims.”
The 2014 world junior champion was even more surprised by what happened in heat two. He paused during the interview to enquire about the time that had been clocked. Both the winner, Saudi Arabia's Yousef Ahmed Masrahi and second-placed Rusheen McDonald of Jamaica ran 43.93.
“Yuh lie,” Cedenio exclaimed in disbelief. “Just crazy. It's a fast track.”
Sporting a lot of facial hair, yesterday, the Florida-based quarter-miler explained his reason for not shaving.
“I just try to keep it rough to know that I'm coming out here to war.”
If the first round times are anything to go by, Wednesday's one-lap final could well be the ultimate athletics battlefield.
Like Cedenio, Quow was pushed to the second fastest time of his career in his opening outing. Running in the sixth and final heat, the 2009 World Championship bronze medallist finished second in 44.54 seconds, behind South Africa's Wayde van Niekirk (44.42).
“I thought it would have been a little bit slower,” said Quow.”
In a repeat of the 2012 Olympic final result, Gordon was third in heat four. The London Games bronze medallist clocked 44.97 seconds to trail Grenadian Olympic champion Kirani James (44.56) and Dominican Republic's silver medallist Luguelin Santos (44.62).
Gordon told the Express he was satisfied with his first round effort.
“I ain't run in two weeks, so I was a little rusty this morning, but it was a good run. Right now the confidence is high. Just try and make the final, and once I'm in anything could happen.”
In order to face the starter in the championship race, Gordon must successfully negotiate the second of three semi-final heats. At 8.13am, he will do battle with Masrahi, McDonald and another sub-44 quarter-miler, Botswana's Isaac Makwala.
Quow will be on the track at 8.05, taking on James, Santos and Verburg in heat one.
And at 8.21, in heat three, Cedenio tackles reigning world champion LaShawn Merritt of the United States, as well as van Niekirk and Jamaica's Javon Francis.
Only the top two in each heat will advance automatically to the final.
Coming off the final bend in the opening women's 400m hurdles first round heat, Sparkle McKnight was well-placed to challenge for one of the four automatic qualifying berths up for grabs. And qualify she did, the T&T athlete finishing second in 55.77 seconds. Jamaica's Kaliese Spencer won the race in 55.03, while third spot went to Sweden's Elise Malmberg (55.97).
McKnight, who clocked a personal best 55.41 seconds in seizing silver at the North American, Central American and Caribbean (NACAC) Championships in Costa Rica earlier this month, was pleased with yesterday's run.
“I felt comfortable. I kept saying in my head, 'Sparkle just be patient, just be patient, don't focus on anybody else in your race and bring it home'.”
McKnight has come on strong in recent weeks, finishing fifth at the Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada, and following up with the NACAC silver.
“What has accounted for that is my daughter most of all. I had a lot of obstacles this year, and yes it's now pulling through for me, but the beginning of the year I wanted to give up. Friends, family told me not to, so I'm really blessed to be here.”
At 7.18 this morning (TT time), McKnight will face the starter in the second of three semi-final heats.
“I really don't have any goal. I just want to take it round by round, execute the best way I can, the best way my coach told me to, and the results would come.”
A top-two finish in her semi-final would earn McKnight an automatic berth in the championship race.
Meanwhile, Keshorn Walcott is hoping for precious metal here in Beijing. The reigning Olympic men's javelin champion has thrown 90.16 metres this season, and seems set to be a medal contender.
But before Walcott can think about challenging for a podium finish in Wednesday's final, he must successfully negotiate today's qualifying competition. He will be the 10th man to throw in Group “A”.
The immediate target for Walcott is the 83.00m automatic qualifying distance. It may seem a simple enough task for the 90-metre man, but the 22-year-old Toco field athlete is nursing an ankle injury which limited him to an 83.27m golden throw at the Pan Am Games.
If he is able to compete unhampered by the injury, Walcott should enjoy a comfortable passage to the final.