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UPCOMING OLYMPIC GAMES

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THE YOUNGEST competitor in the finals of the 400 metres of the World Championships, Trinidad and Tobago’s Machel Cedenio, says he would not be intimidated when he takes on a high quality field at 9.25am this morning.

Cedenio, 19, will face-off today against a quality field that includes five athletes who have proven capable of running under 44 seconds; additionally, all eight finalists ran sub-45s in the semis. Among the favourites today will be Olympic champion Kirani James of Grenada who advanced with the second fastest time (44.16), and world leader and African record holder Isaac Makwala of Botswana who progressed to the finals with the fastest time of 44.11.

The Trinidadian quarter-miler will also be competing against the reigning world champion, American Lashawn Merritt and South African Wayde Van Niekerk, the only man to beat James this season. Yet another athlete in his way will be Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic, the man who beat him to Pan Am gold weeks ago in Toronto.

“I am just going into the final to have fun, so I am taking it step by step,” said Cedenio.

“I thank God for bringing me through the rounds and you know it is a good step with Olympics next year. I just thank God that I am a world finalist right now.” After his countrymen Renny Quow and Lalonde Gordon were eliminated in successive heats, Cedenio finished third in the last of the semi-finals on Monday to progress as one of two fastest losers from the three semi-finals; his time was 44.64 seconds but his personal best, set this year, is 44.36.

One former national 200 and 400m athlete, Alvin Daniel has backed Cedenio to cause an upset ever since watching the southerner’s performance at the Pan Am Games. Daniel insists that Cedenio simply needs to plan his race properly. “I think he is the fastest finisher,” Daniel told Newsday recently. “But he’s leaving himself a lot to do (at the finish). Once Machel is with them after the final turn, the race is his.” Daniel also dismissed the fact that Cedenio is not as powerfully built as some of his rivals, such as the defending champion Merritt. “Quincy Watts (1992 Olympic champion) was a very big guy,” he said, adding, “But Michael Johnson (1996 Olympic champion) wasn’t a very big man. And you have to remember that our own Ian Morris was a small guy, yet he was one of the most dangerous 400m men in his day.” Meantime, Cedenio is preparing for the toughest race of his career thus far.

“The extra day’s rest will help in the recovery of my muscles and mentally prepare me for the finals,” he said.

“Depending on the lane I get, we will see.

Right now I am just grateful to be in the final. No matter what lane as we will all run 400 metres.” Cedenio has been placed in the innermost lane, as he will run from lane two and lane one will be unoccupied.

It means that at the start of the final, he will be the only athlete who can see the progress of all his rivals. The two fastest semi-finalists, Makwala and James will run in lanes four and five respectively; Merritt will attempt to retain his title from lane eight, while Yousef Ahmed Masrahi will occupy the outside lane (9), which many experts consider the most difficult lane from which to contest the one-lap event.

The Men’s 400 metres final will bring the curtain down on day five at the World Championships. Two hours before (7.15 am), Trinidad and Tobago will have three representatives in the opening round of the Women’s 200 metres.

Kamaria Durant will contest heat three, Semoy Hackett will face off against Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell- Browne in heat five, and in heat six Reyare Thomas will face the Netherlands’ Dafne Schippers, who took the silver medal in the Women’s 100m final on Monday.

Yesterday, Kyle Greaux was fifth in heat 7 of the Men’s 200m event in a time of 20.51 which was not enough to advance.

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