The world record for the 400 meters is 43.03. The distinguished mark was recorded by South African Wayde Van Niekerk last year at the Rio Olympics. The same Van Niekerk on Tuesday captured the one-lap gold medal at the 16th International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships in London, England.
There is a whole lot more focus now however, on the second place finisher. It was none other than The Bahamas’ Steve Gardiner. The Abaco native ran 44.41 compared to Van Niekerk’s 43.98. In third was Qatar’s Abdalelah Haroun (44.48). Botswana’s national champion Isaac Makwala was ruled out of the final because of food poisoning. He was favored to make the medal podium.
Gardiner’s sensational 43.89 semi-final win, in my view though, stamped him as the primary test for Van Nierkerk over 400 meters going forward. There is so much that Gardiner represented in his breakthrough major world competition.
He lowered the Bahamian national record for the event for sure. Perhaps even more significant for many, Gardiner became the first Bahamian to run the 400 meters in under 44 seconds. He also is the first Bahamian to win a medal over the distance in the Outdoor World Championships since the Grand Lady Pauline Davis won the silver medal at the IAAF event in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1995.
There is a lot more ground for Gardiner to cover as a quarter miler. I think he will make several assaults on the world record and indeed he has the capability of being the first ever Bahamian outdoor world record holder in track and field. Tommy Robinson (300 yards) and Danny Smith (50 meter hurdles) attained the achievement indoors.
I will wonder forever, about the London 400 meters final. What really would have happened in the final, if Gardiner had not been pushed so hard by Jamaican Nathon Allen in their semi-final race? Allen came home in a blistering 44.19 seconds, so Gardiner had to put out more to win the heat.
If he was in an easier heat and was able to shut down, as did Van Nierkerk, it might have been quite a different result in the final. Van Nierkerk is definitely the best at this time. Being the reigning Olympic and World Champion verifies as much.
Nevertheless, our guy is getting better. If the progression continues as is, not only would Gardiner become the major rival for Van Niekerk, he will challenge the record and perhaps get it at some point. At 21, he is still maturing as a 400 meters specialist. He has to get stronger. There is more speed to come from those legs.
I am hopeful that the trio of Michael Mathieu, Ramon Miller and Alonzo Russell and whoever else, of the other quarter milers in London for The Bahamas, advance to the final. If that happens the world will likely see one of the swiftest 400 meters splits in history.
Gardiner is poised.
A world elite performer has emerged.
The sky is the limit for Steve Gardiner.
(To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at firstname.lastname@example.org or at WhatsApp via 727-6363).