Sunday, 16 August 2009

Event Report - Men's 400m Hurdles - Semi-Final

Bershawn Jackson of the United States congratulates David Greene of Great Britain after their semi-final  (Getty Images)

Bershawn Jackson of the United States congratulates David Greene of Great Britain after their semi-final (Getty Images)

A scrappy first round in the men's 400m hurdles yesterday witnessed its fair share of DQs, DNFs and surprise non-qualifiers. After today's semi finals we now know at least who the finalists will be, but the gold is still up for grabs.

Defending champion Kerron Clement looked even more impressive than he did in the heats. Once more, he made no mistakes with his stride pattern and strode away a confident winner with a season's best of 48.01.

Felix Sanchez may not be quite the same athlete he was between 2001 and 2004, but if he has shown anything in recent years, it is to never count him out. He reiterated that message again here, clocking a big season's best of 48.34 to chase Clement home in second.

Javier Culson of Puerto Rico was the third automatic qualifier from the first semi with a time of 48.43. Danny McFarlane of Jamaica (48.49) and Trinidadian teenager Jehue Gordon (48.77) were made to sweat it out, but their times proved good enough to make it through.

But perhaps the most notable outcome of the first semi was the performance of world leader LJ van Zyl, who will be absent from Tuesday's final. The South African once again failed to make an impression at a global championships by finishing sixth with 48.80.

The second semi final was a much closer - and more intriguing - affair. Former world champion Bershawn Jackson went off much quicker than he did in the heats, and as he approached the home straight he cleared the penultimate hurdle almost level with Isa Phillips of Jamaica, Periklis Iakovakis of Greece and Britain's David Greene.

But coming off the final hurdle, it was Jackson and Greene who broke away and they made it look so easy, sparing time to glace across to each other. Jackson won with 48.23, while Greene clocked a PB of 48.27 in second. Iakovakis grabbed the last available spot for the final with 48.73.

But, as was the case in the first semi, there was another major casualty - this time in the shape of Isa Phillips. The Jamaican, who has looked so good on the circuit this year, ran out of steam off the final hurdle and finished fourth with 48.93. USA's Johnny Dutch - who has had to cope with a long collegiate season - was sixth in 49.28, more than a second away from the PB he clocked earlier this year.

As things stand going into the final, Clement looks to be the marginal favourite, while Jackson and Greene appear to have much more in the bag. And remember to never count out Sanchez!

Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF