Olympic champion Steven Gardiner made a powerful statement at the Gyulai Istvan Memorial 2023 in Szekesfehervar on Tuesday (18), leaving his competitors, including Wayde van Niekerk, Muzala Samukonga, and possibly Michael Norman, with something to think about.
He blazed through the 400m race at the World Athletics Continental Tour Gold series meeting today in a breathtaking 43.74 seconds, signaling his intent to reclaim his world title at the upcoming World Athletics Championships in Budapest next month.
Gardiner’s performance at the Gyulai Istvan Memorial, which was only his second appearance on the European circuit this season, propelled him to the top of the world rankings and marked the second-fastest time of his career.
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It was a clear message to his rivals that he had fully recovered from a tendon injury that sidelined him during the world track and field championships in Oregon last summer. The Bahamian sprinter is eager to compete against the world’s best in Hungary and secure his third global title.
“I surprised myself today”
During the Gyulai Istvan Memorial 2023, Gardiner proved his dominance as he led the race from start to finish. Holding a commanding lead as he entered the home straight, he maintained his momentum in the final 100m and crossed the finish line in his fastest time since winning the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
Reflecting on his outstanding performance, Gardiner expressed his satisfaction, stating, “I think that is my old self again out there, and I’m happy. I surprised myself today.”
The achievement has boosted his confidence, reinforcing his belief that he can achieve anything. He surprised himself with his remarkable performance, proving that he is capable of exceeding expectations.
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Notably, Gardiner’s superior display this summer saw him surpass his own meeting record of 44.30, established in 2015, while also overtaking Muzala Samukonga as the fastest 400m runner in 2023.
Meanwhile, Rusheen McDonald, Jamaica’s national record holder, continued his impressive comeback from a back problem, securing second place in the race.
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Starting strongly from lane eight, the 30-year-old couldn’t match Gardiner’s pace but relentlessly pursued him until the finish line and was well rewarded –clocking an impressive time of 44.03 seconds to set a big-time season-best.
In fact, this marks McDonald’s fastest time in eight years and the second-fastest time of his career behind his Jamaican record of 43.93 seconds set during some eye-popping results during the heats at the 2015 world track and field championships in Beijing.
Elsewhere, Vernon Norwood, the runner-up at the USATF Outdoor Championships 2023 earlier this month, finished further back in third place at the Gyulai Istvan Memorial, posting a time of 44.63 seconds.
Anticipating the World Athletics Championships Showdown
As the World Athletics Championships approach in August, the men’s 400m race promises to be a thrilling event to watch. With Gardiner’s scintillating performance and Wayde van Niekerk already clocking 44.08 seconds this season, fans eagerly anticipate the anticipated showdown between these two remarkable athletes.
The competition at the world championships is expected to be fierce, showcasing their exceptional skills and determination to secure victory on the grand stage.
The Gyulai Istvan Memorial 2023 meeting provided another opportunity for some of the best athletes in the world athletes were in Hungary for this season’s penultimate World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting as they sought strong results ahead of their return for the global showpiece taking place in Budapest between 19-27 August.
Also at the meeting in Hungary on Tuesday, NCAA five-time sprint champion Julien Alfred clocked 10.89 seconds and handed U.S. champion Sha’Carri Richardson her first defeat of the 2023 season in the event.
Richardson, who had won five previous finals entering this competition, ran 10.97 secs for second place behind Alfred today.