Wariner – in total command, a new superstar is confirmed


Wariner – in total command, a new superstar is confirmed

Saturday 13 August 2005

Helsinki, Finland - In the opening round, he was given lane eight; in the semi-final, in the rain, he did not look as convincing as we might expect. But last night, in the final of the 400 metres at the 10th IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Helsinki, Jeremy Wariner was the finished article - from the moment the gun fired to the second that he crossed the line to add this gold medal to the Olympic Games title from 12 months ago.

It has been five years since Michael Johnson, the World record holder at both this distance and the 200m, retired. But not since then, not even in Athens last summer, has a runner commanded a one-lap race like Wariner did.

He was breathtaking and Johnsonesque in the way he just dominated, winning by a large margin and running with that type on nonchalance that Johnson always had.

Should we surprised? Of course not, he is after all a product of the same stable as his American colleague and at this rate, at the age of just of 21, he might even surpass his achievements.

Wariner won in a personal best of 43.93, ahead of his teammate Andrew Rock, who was a long was back in second in 44.35 with Tyler Christopher, of Canada, third in 44.44.

It was a milestone moment: the first time that Wariner had broken 44 seconds.

World record in sight?

When Johnson retired, his coach Clyde Hart never expected he would remain involved with the sport. But in Texas, a new star was rising.

His advice, in coaching and being an agent to Wariner, has revived his enthusiasm and the new World champion has his long-term sights on the 400m World record of 43.18 that Johnson broke in Seville in 1999, one of his four world titles.

Wariner said: “Hopefully I can get down to the World record sooner or later. I would like it to be in the next couple of years but coach Hart reckons four or five years.

"I wouldn’t say it felt like it was sub 44 but when I finally saw the clock I realised it was and I was excited. I’ve been waiting for that time to come and now I’ve got it I’ve got to look forward.

“I’m fortunate to have him (Hart), especially with him being 72. He’s been in the game for long enough. You’d think he’d want to retire but he’s enjoying it right now."

The differences between Johnson and Wariner

Hart is happy too as he told The Times newspaper of London - but he knows the differences between Johnson and Wariner.

“I probably figured that after 2000, I would be retired and out playing golf,” he said. “I never dreamed I would get another youngster that I felt had a chance to do similar things as Michael. Obviously a guy who can run 44.00 (in the Olympic final) at 20 has got a chance.

“There is not as much similarity between them as a lot of people would imagine. They are both Olympic and World champions but Jeremy ran faster 200 times as a schoolboy than Michael - quite a bit faster.

“Their style of running is totally different. Michael was upright, with very fast turnover. Jeremy is more fluid, more classic, with longer legs. Probably the biggest similarity is that they both get the job done.

They do not worry a lot. A lot of athletes sit around the whole day worrying about the race, using energy.

“Michael has been good about talking to him about approaching big races and how to handle the pressure but he has pretty much stayed out of the coaching aspect.”

Whatever Johnson might have said, has worked. The sport has another 400m superstar who is only just starting on the road to greatness.

Samuel Peters for the IAAF