The greatest 400 metres race in history was contested at the Bird's Nest Stadium here in Beijing, China, last night, and Machel Cedenio was part of it. The 19-year-old Trinidad and Tobago quarter-miler finished seventh in the IAAF World Championship men's one-lap final in 45.06 seconds.
At the front of the race, the times were lightning fast, South Africa's Wayde van Niekerk leading the pack home with a golden run of 43.48 seconds, a new African record. LaShawn Merritt was dethroned, but there was a silver lining, the American claiming the runner-up spot in a personal best 43.65. And Grenada's reigning Olympic champion Kirani James clocked an impressive 43.78 for bronze in the event.
Cedenio 7th; van Niekerk golden in 43.48
Never before had three men dived under 44 seconds in the same race. Van Niekerk, who needed medical attention as he recovered from his huge championship race effort, is now fourth on the all-time world performance list, behind a trio of Americans, world record holder Michael Johnson (43.18), Butch Reynolds (43.29) and Jeremy Wariner (43.45).
“Being one of the fastest 400s in history,” Cedenio told the Express, “I'm happy I was a part of it. Those times showed me the possibilities. It could be my turn next.”
Drawn in lane two for the final, Cedenio was always going to find the going tough in his bid for a podium finish. It turned out to be even tougher than he could have anticipated. Coming off the final turn, the reigning World junior champion was way off the pace and unable to challenge the front-runners.
“I still thank God to be part of history,” said Cedenio. “My first major senior 400 and I got to the final.”
Progressing to the championship round took a lot out of Cedenio's legs, hampering his chances in the grand finale. He clocked 44.54 seconds in Sunday's first round and 44.64 in Monday's semis to take his sub-45 career total to six—all recorded this season.
Cedenio was unable to recover sufficiently to notch number seven in the final. But, all things being equal, there will be many more 44-point runs in his career. And with a personal best of 44.36 seconds to his name, 43-point at some stage seems a likelihood as well.
The next major global assignment for Cedenio is Rio 2016. The youngest man in yesterday's World Championship one-lap final knows he will have to contend with van Niekerk, Merritt and James at the Olympics, not to mention Dominican Republic's Luguelin Santos, who was fourth yesterday in a personal best 44.11 seconds.
“I'm not giving up without giving it a fight,” said Cedenio. “The plan is to stay focused, train hard and hopefully I'll be on the podium.”
With six men producing 43-point 400s this season, membership in the sub-44 club sooner rather than later could well be a requirement for Cedenio's Olympic medal quest.