Kirani James at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

TOKYO, Japan — Gold medal favorite Steven Gardiner and fellow Caribbean podium hopeful Kirani James both advanced to the final of the men’s 400 meters on Day 4 of the athletics schedule at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Monday. Click here for the final startlist.

Both Americans, Michael Norman and Michael Cherry also secured passages into the final, but there was no place for departing champion and world record holder Wayde van Niekerk after he faded to fifth in his race.

James, the 2012 Olympic champion from London, seems to be back to his best when posting 43.88 seconds to win his semifinal in the second-fastest time this year. The time was also the fastest for the Grenadian since taking a silver medal behind Van Niekerk with 43.76s in Rio de Janeiro five years ago.

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Another impressive performance in the semifinals came in that same heat involving James, after world silver medalist Anthony Zambrano of Columbia stopped the clock at a South American record of 43.93s when finishing in second place.

Liemarvin Bonevacia from The Netherlands ran a national record of 44.62s for third place in semis one and also advanced to the final.

World champion Gardiner from The Bahamas also won his semifinal heat in 44.14s and looked very comfortable in doing so as well. After running conservatively for the opening three-quarters of the race, the 25-year-old took control in the last 80m and glided away from the field.

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US champion Michael Norman had to work hard to secure his place in the final, but did so in the end after running 44.52s for second place. Isaac Makwala of Botswana was pushed back to third, but still qualified with his time of 44.59s.

However, there was no joy for Van Niekerk in his title defense after the South African crashed out when finishing fifth in Gardiner’s semifinal, in 45.14.

Elsewhere, USA’s Michael Cherry won the second semifinal in 44.44s, while Jamaica will have an athlete in the Olympic final of the men’s 400m for the first time since Athens 2004, after Christopher Taylor produced a season’s best of 44.92s at the right time for second place.

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