Kirani James/Getty Images

Kirani James/Getty Images

Taplin plans to upstage

by Michael Bascombe

NEW YORK, April 26, 2016 (GrenadaSports) – The Olympic Games are more than 100 days away but track and field fans will enjoy a pre-games treat at the Drake Relays in Des Moines this weekend.

One of the marquee events will be the Men’s 400 metres on Friday night when eight quarter-milers take the track including two former and current World and Olympic champions.

The line-up also includes the current world leader Kirani James of Grenada and Bralon Taplin, who trails his compatriot on the world list.

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Beijing Olympic gold medallist LaShawn Merritt and David Verburg of the United States, alongFLOW Logo with Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic, Chris Brown of the Bahamas, Great Britain’s Yousif Rabah and Yousef Ahmed Masrahi of Saudi Arabia have all entered in the star-studded event.

But the rivalry between James and Merritt has been described as the Blue Riband in any meet programme.

Since the two met at the IAAF World Championships in 2011, James and Merritt have battled over 17 races with James leading their head-to-head by 10 races to 7.

In their five meetings in 2015, James leads 3-2, with Merritt finishing ahead of James at the World Championships in Beijing (race won by Wadye van Niekerk) and the Zurich Diamond League. However, James won the Diamond Race.

The Grenadian one-lap champion, who opened his season with a world-leading 44.36 at the Chris Brown Bahamas Invitational on April 16, is always excited about competing and to thrill fans who expect nothing less from two of the world’s best quarter-milers.

“It’s all about maintain consistency. I expect it to be competitive and exciting, as usual,” he told GrenadaSports.

But Taplin, who trails James on the world leader list with 44.41, is not counting himself out of the

Bralon Taplin/Getty Images

Bralon Taplin/Getty Images

parade. He is the newcomer among the impressive line-up on Saturday.

“I am in the best form of my life. I am going into this race to see how I match up against some of the best 400m runners in the world,” he said.

“The goal is to win as always but I really just want to see what these guys bring to the table.”

Three of the competitors in this race are in the illustrious sub 44-second club with Merritt (43.65), James (43.74) and Masrahi (43.93).

Most of the runners from last year are returning to the event where James broke Michael Johnson’s meet record of 44.41 which had stood since 1996. James (44.22) was ahead of Masrahi (44.70) and Brown (44.76).

The Drake Relays have attracted close to 50 Olympians, including current and former World and Olympic champions, competing this weekend and billed as a preview of the Rio Olympic Games.

LaShawn Merritt (USA) – 43.65 (Beijing Aug 26, 2015)

Kirani James (GRN) – 43.74 (Lausanne Jul 3, 2014)

Luguelin Santos (DOM) – 44.11 (Beijing Aug 26, 2015)

David Verburg (USA) – 44.41 (Eugene Jun 26, 2015)

Bralon Taplin (GRN) – 44.41 (Arizona Apr 9, 2016)

Chris Brown (BAH) – 44.40 (Oslo Jun 6, 2008)

Yousif Rabah (GBR) – 44.54 (Beijing Aug 24, 2015)

Yousef Ahmed Masrahi (KSA) – 43.93 (Beijing Aug 23, 2015)

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