For many track and field fans, the 400 meter dash is probably the most interesting and competitive race in Rio. Over the past two seasons, three athletes have separated themselves from the competition and are heavy favorites to stand on the podium at the XXXI Olympiad. The question remains—who will be crowned King of the Quarter-Mile?
Here are some tidbits about who I believe will medal in Rio in the 400 meter dash.
Kirani James (Gold Medal)
Kirani James is my former teammate at the University of Alabama. He joined the Crimson Tide program in 2010 as a 17-year old freshman and he is still the best athlete I’ve seen in person. He will represent his native country Grenada, where he is already a sports icon. Kirani is my favorite to win gold and defend his Olympic title from London. He has an excellent blend of speed and endurance and is one of the best finishers in the 400 meter event. I believe he and his coach Harvey Glance are motivated to win another gold medal for Grenada, although the challenge will be much more difficult this time around.
Wayde van Niekerk (Silver Medal)
Wayde van Niekerk is a 23-year-old South African sprinter who set the track and field world on fire at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing. Van Niekerk won gold at last year’s world championships defeating James and Merritt with a sensational time of 43.48. He, in my opinion, is the biggest threat to dethrone James as Olympic champion. Van Niekerk is the first man in history to dip under 10 in the 100m, 20 in the 200m, and 44 in the 400m. He has had a good year so far and even spent time training with the same training camp as Usain Bolt. Can we expect another amazing performance from van Niekerk in Rio? Only time will tell.
LaShawn Merritt (Bronze Medal)
Veteran LaShawn Merritt of the United States is the 2008 Olympic champion over 400 meters and has run the fastest times in the world this year over 200m (19.74) and 400m (43.97). He will attempt the double in Rio, but his best chance of winning gold is his main event, the 400 meter dash. Merritt has been impressive throughout the 2016 season and won the U.S. Olympic Trials over 400m and finished second in the 200m behind Justin Gatlin. Merritt holds a personal best of 43.65 over 400m, which was set last year at the Beijing World Championships. Sports Illustrated has him winning the gold in Rio. I beg to differ. He lost to James earlier in the year over 400m and van Niekerk over 300m. Although those losses were earlier in the year and at this point do not matter, I believe Merritt will end up with the bronze medal.
Sports Illustrated 400m Medal Predictions
• LaShawn Merrit, USA (Gold)
• Kirani James, Grenada (Silver)
• Wayde van Niekerk, South Africa (Bronze)
Track and Field News 400m Medal Predictions
• Wayde van Niekerk, South Africa (Gold)
• Kirani James, Grenada, (Silver)
• LaShawn Merritt, USA, (Bronze)
The heats for the 400 meter dash are set to start on August 12 with the final set to fire off on August 14. Set your watches; this could be the fastest 400 meter Olympic final ever.
Comment on who you think will win the 400 meter dash in Rio.
By Dr. Brandon Spradley
Dr. Spradley is the Director of Sports Management at the United States Sports Academy, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.