GLASGOW – Grenadian star sprinter Kirani James defeated a very strong field to win the men’s 400 metres at the 20th Commonwealth Games at Hampden Park in Glasgow this evening.
The Olympic champion, who entered the Commonwealth Games as the overwhelming favourite, ran 44.25 seconds to also shatter the meet record of 44.52 seconds, which was set in 1998 by Iwan Thomas of Wales. James took control of the race from the beginning and then made another move at the 200 metre mark as he headed into the home straight. The 21-year-old was forced to find another gear in the closing metres though, after he was challenged by Wayde Van Niekerk of South Africa, who ran brilliantly for the silver medal.
“The race wasn’t as fast as it looked but Kirani James took real charge of things,” said former sprinter and 400m world record holder Michael Johnson on BBC One.
“It was a great effort from Wayde van Niekerek who ran the 200m prelims this morning. Maybe if he hadn’t have done that he could have got that bit closer to James and pushed him all the way to the line,” he added.
Van Niekerk was second in 44.68 seconds while London Olympic Games bronze medal winner Lalonde Gordon of Trinidad and Tobago was third in 44.78, with England’s Martyn Rooney finishing fourth in 45.15. Veteran Chris Brown of the Bahamas, who was one of the runners on the list of medal contenders, did not start in the final.
“I’m just happy for the country,” said James afterwards. “This win is for everyone back home. I glimpsed him across the curve so I had to stay composed and in control and I ended up running a great time.
“The crowd is fantastic,” he added, probably making himself the most popular Caribbean athlete in Glasgow given Usain Bolt’s reported comments. “I love it here. They really cancel out the weather.”
In the men’s 800m, the Olympic champion and world record holder David Rudisha won his semi-final in 1:46.61 to set up what could be contest of the week with the 20-year-old Nijel Amos, who qualified first in his heat. Amos, the silver medallist from London 2012, finished fifth in Monaco in a race that Rudisha won. Also there will be the unheralded Scot Guy Learmonth, who finished third behind Rudisha – much to the delight of the crowd.
In the absence of Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who pulled out the championships with a foot injury, the heptathlon was won at a canter by the Canadian Brianne Theisen-Eaton with a score of 6,597 points, ahead of her compatriot Jessica Zelinka with 6,270. But there was joy for England, too, as Jessica Taylor took bronze with a personal best of 5,826.
There was more Canadian success in the men’s high jump, which was won by Derek Drouin with a height of 2.31m. The Cypriot Kryiakos Ioannou claimed silver with 2.28m, while another Canadian, Michael Mason, took bronze with 2.25m. England’s Chris Baker finished fourth on countback after also leaping 2.25m.
In the women’s 3,000m steeplechase Scotland’s Eilish McColgan was unable to emulate her mother Liz, who won 10,000m gold in the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in 1986 and Auckland in 1990, as the race turned into a predictable Kenyan 1-2-3.
There was a minor shock as Purity Cherotich Kirui beat the reigning world champion Milcah Chemos Cheywa in a time of 9:30.96, with Joan Kipkemoi gaining bronze. But McColgan, who finished the best of the British athletes by finishing sixth in 9:44.65, was left to rue what might have been.
Earlier in the day James Ellington was one of three Englishmen who qualified for the men’s 200m semi-final. But later he laid open the frustrations felt by some of the England sprinters at the criticism of Michael Johnson when he tweeted: “MJ is employed to just slate our athletes, there’s being honest and being disrespectful. If we were all on the juice we might satisfy him.”
Meanwhile Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls will play world number one Australia in Saturday’s semi-final, after going down 50-42 at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre.
The Jamaican netballers, who led 24-23 at half-time, have themselves to blame, turning the ball over 16 times and only managing 18 goals in the second half of the top-of-the-table Pool A clash, as the Silver Ferns ran away with the contest.
Jamaica will now have to go through the mighty Aussies if they are to progress to the gold medal match but coach Minneth Reynolds, while disappointed with the poor second half execution, was confident that the team would bounce back.
“We just need to be patient, steady and stay in control; keep fighting to the end. If we make unforced errors, it will cost us the game against teams like these. The girls have learned their lessons and we are ready to go for the semi-final,” Reynolds said.
New Zealand will play England in the other semi-final.