LaShawn Merritt and Kirani James in the 400m at the 2012 Pre Classic in Eugene (© Kirby Lee)
The world’s two best 400m runners headline another loaded field in Eugene on 31 May at the 40th Prefontaine Classic, the third leg of the 2014 IAAF Diamond League, as world champion LaShawn Merritt takes on Olympic champion Kirani James.
It will be the third year in succession that the 400m heavyweights have clashed at the historic Hayward Field. They have raced each other nine times with James having the edge at 5-4, but Merritt has always beaten his Grenadian rival in Eugene.
USA’s Merritt regained the world title last year, four years after winning his first. The 27-year-old was also the 2008 Olympic champion and has won the 400m at the Pre Classic four times, more than any other in this event, including world record-holder Michael Johnson.
In 2011 James became the youngest ever winner of the world 400m title when he triumphed in Daegu at the age of 18. In doing so, he became the first athlete to win the world youth, world junior and senior world titles in successive seasons. Now 21, he remains the only non-US sprinter to run faster than 44 seconds in the one-lap event.
The field also includes USA’s Tony McQuay. The 24-year-old earned the 400m silver medal at last year’s IAAF World Championships in Moscow behind Merritt.
The world’s fastest twins over one lap of the track will also be on the start-line. Now 26, Belgium’s Jonathan and Kevin Borlee have a solid championship record with at least one of the Borlees has made the final at the past three global outdoor championships.
The top two finishers from last month’s IAAF World Indoor Championships are also in the field. Pavel Maslak, the gold medallist in Sopot, and runner-up Chris Brown are both in the field, as is reigning Asian champion and world finalist Youssef Al-Masrahi.
Organisers for the IAAF
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2014 IAAF Diamond League calendar
Doha, QAT – 9 May
Shanghai, CHN – 18 May
Eugene, USA – 31 May
Rome, ITA – 5 Jun
Oslo, NOR – 11 Jun
New York, USA – 14 Jun
Lausanne, SUI – 3 Jul
Paris, FRA – 5 Jul
Glasgow, GBR – 11-12 Jul
Monaco, MON – 18 Jul
Stockholm, SWE – 21 Aug
Birmingham, GBR – 24 Aug
Zurich, SUI – 28 Aug
Brussels, BEL – 5 Sep