Tournament favourites in the men’s 400m field, Wayde Van Niekerk, LaShawn Merritt and Kirani James all won their respective heats to advance to the semis of the event on Day 1 of the Athletics event at the Olympic Games in Rio.
Defending Champion Kirani James looked in fine form to retain his title, running the fastest time overall of 44.93s in Heat 6. Rusheen McDonald set an SB of 45.22s to come in 2nd, while Great Britain’s Matthew Hudson-Smith beat David Verburg to 3rd place in 45.26s. However, the American made it to the semis as the fastest loser overall, clocking 45.48s to finish 4th.
The second fastest time overall was clocked by Trinidad and Tobago’s Machel Cedenio who stormed to victory in Heat 1 in 44.98s, to finish ahead of USA’s Gil Roberts (45.27s) and Yoandys Lescay of Cuba (45.36s).
James’ compatriot Bralon Taplin took Heat 2 in 45.15s, and qualified for the semis alongside Nery Brenes (45.53s) and Botswana youngster Karabo Sibanda (45.56s).
Reigning World Champion Wayde van Niekerk was the man to beat in Heat 3 as he sailed past his opponents to set the lead in 45.26s. Dominican Republic’s Luguelín Santos followed in 45.61s while Javon Francis placed 3rd in 45.88s.
Botswana’s Baboloki Thebe was lucky to make it to the semis after finishing 3rd behind Lalonde Gordon (45.24s) and Luka Janežic (45.33s) in Heat 4, clocking a time of 45.41s. Unfortunately, veteran Chris Brown finished 4th and his Season’s Best (SB) of 45.56s was not adequate to get him into the semis.
Beijing 2015 Silver medallist LaShawn Merritt was smooth, setting the pace in Heat 5 to dominate the field in 45.28s. Reigning World Junior Champion Abdalelah Haroun and former African Champion Isaac Makwala returned times of 45.76s and 45.91s respectively.
Bahrain’s Ali Khamis Khamis emerged the surprise winner in Heat 7 as he upstaged European Champion Pavel Maslák who finished a distant 5th in 45.54s. The Bahraini athlete returned a time of 45.12s, with Steven Gardiner following in 45.24s as Liemarvin Bonevacia of the Netherlands placed 3rd in 45.49s. Nigeria’s Orukpe Eraiyokan placed 7th with an SB of 47.42s.