By Ian Chadband
LONDON (Reuters) – Olympic champion Kerron Clement put himself in pole position to win a third world title as the American went through the gears before cruising into the final of the 400 meters hurdles at the London Stadium on Monday.
The gifted 31-year-old, who won his first title a decade ago and has made such a revival late in his career that he struck Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro last year, won his opening heat to ensure he was the fastest qualifier in 48.35 seconds.
It had looked briefly off the final bend that the Trinidadian-born Clement might have his work cut out.
Yet he actually timed his run in lane seven with considerable precision to reel in the field, headed by the second automatic qualifier, powerful young Norwegian hope Karsten Warholm, in what was to prove by far the fastest heat.
It left Clement delighted as he seems to have rediscovered his best form at just the right time after an indifferent season, having also won at the London Stadium in last month’s Diamond League meeting.
“I trust my strength and I know I am the best off that last hurdle. If anyone is within arm’s length of me at the last hurdle, it’s a wrap,” said Clement, who despite the titles to his name is still seen as a slightly unfulfilled talent.
“I just need to concentrate on the turn because that can be my Achilles heel. I need to make sure that goes smoothly for the final.”
Clement’s U.S. colleague TJ Holmes won the slowest, faintly shambolic, heat in 49.12 seconds, but did look to have enough in reserve to be a potential threat to his illustrious compatriot in Wednesday’s final.
However, American hopes of having a powerful three-pronged assault on gold were thwarted by national champion Eric Futch’s poor run on the inside lane in the other heat dominated by two of the sport’s growing legion of ‘allegiance transferees’.
Heat winner Abderrahaman Samba, who won in 48.75, now runs for Qatar, having switched his allegiance from Mauritania, while Turkey’s European champion Yasmani Copello, who eased home just behind him in 48.91, used to run for Cuba.
(Reporting by Ian Chadband; editing by Ken Ferris)