LaShawn Merritt wins the 400m as Kirani James places 2nd at Prefontaine Classic at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, Jun 1, 2013. Thomas Boyd/The Oregonian

LaShawn Merritt wins the 400m as Kirani James places 2nd at Prefontaine Classic at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, Jun 1, 2013. Thomas Boyd/The Oregonian

by Michael Bascombe

Coverage courtesy “LIME-Value Every Moment”

EUGENE, Oregon, June 1, 2013 – The Men’s 400-metre duel between the World and Olympic champion Kirani James of Grenada and arch-rival and former champion American LaShawn Merritt has been squared, at least for the time being.

Merritt continued his unbeaten run against James on home soil to win Saturday’s Prefontaine Classic in a season’s best 44.32 seconds. James was second in 44.39 and American Tony McQuay took the third spot in 45.31.

Luguelín Santos of the Dominican Republic was fourth in 45.33. Kevin Borlée of Belgium and Trinidadian Lalonde Gordon produced seasons’ best of 45.56 and 45.67 respectively and Chris Brown of the Bahamas 45.85 and Pavel Maslák of the Czech Republic 46.05.

This victory is a major moral boost for Merritt whose only previous win against James was at the same venue last year when the 2011 world champion false started and ran under protest. This is also the fourth Prefontaine victory (2006, 2008 & 2012) for the former World and Olympic champion.

Last month, James blew his opponents away at the Shanghai Diamond League Meet in a world leading 44.02. But he was nowhere near that form on Saturday.

“It was a good race. It was very competitive and I just have to execute a bit better,” James told GrenadaSports.

“This is my second 400m in a long time so I need to put it together. I love the track here, I love the atmosphere, I just wanted to come out and run a great race,” said Merritt.

About lining up against Kirani James

“It’s great. It reminds me about the old days when you use to battle, battle, battle. I love lining up against him because I know he is Kirani James - World Talkgoing to bring the best out of me and I have to run a smart race.”

The Men’s 400m is already billing to be a much anticipated clash at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics in August.

“If you are a fan of the quarter mile, this is going to be one of the best match ups on the track. The two best quarter milers in the world are one and one, so far in 2013, with the World Championships looming,” said Ato Boldon, a four-time Olympic medallist now television commentator.

James captured the Olympic title in 2012 after a last place at the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul, the snafu at the Prefontaine Classic and a lost in Monaco to Jonathan Borlee of Belgium on the eve of the London Games.

James is aware that the defence of his world championship title in Moscow is under threat and the field will be loaded with title chasers including Merritt.

James will next compete in the Czech Republic at the 52nd Ostrava Golden Spike on June 27.

Men’s 400m

1. LaShawn MERRITT USA 86 44.32
2. Kirani JAMES GRN 92 44.39
3. Tony MCQUAY USA 90 45.31
4. Luguelín SANTOS DOM 93 45.33
5. Kevin BORLÉE BEL 88 45.56
6. Lalonde GORDON TRI 88 45.67
7. Christopher BROWN BAH 78 45.85
8. Pavel MASLÁK CZE 91 46.05

In other Caribbean results, Jamaicans Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Nickel Ashmeade and Hansle Parchment were also Diamond League winners.

Fraser-Pryce won the women’s 100m in 10.71, ahead of Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria (10.75) and Jamaican Veronica Campbell-Brown (10.78). Kerron Stewart, also of Jamaica, was fourth in 10.97.

Ashmeade won the men’s 200m in 20.14, beating off American Walter Dix (20.16) and Jamaican Jason Young with a season’s best 20.20.

Parchment destroyed a competitive field in the men’s 110m hurdles to win in a world leading and national record of 13.05. Andrew Riley, also of Jamaica, posted a season best in finishing fifth in 13.20.

The Americans swept the men’s 100m with Justin Gatlin (9.88), Mike Rodgers (9.94) and Ryan Bailey (10.00).

Nesta Carter (Jamaica, 10.03), Derrick Atkins (Bahamas, 10.08), Keston Bledman (Trinidad & Tobago, 10.10), Richard Thompson (Trinidad & Tobago, 10.21) and Kemar Bailey Cole (Jamaica, 10.24) completed the finishers.

Novlene Williams-Mills of Jamaica managed the third position in the women’s 400m in 51.14. Jamaicans Stephanie McPherson (51.35) and Shericka Williams (52.22) were fifth and seventh respectively. Olympic champion Sanya Richards-Ross finished eighth, in her first race of the season since toe surgery.

Kaliese Spencer of Jamaica copped third in the women’s 400m hurdles in 55.03.

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