The level of competition in the Men’s 400 meters can not and should not be underestimated. Wayde Van Niekerk spent 3 years trying to get back to his 2016 and 2017 levels of fitness. He was almost there.
Steven Gardiner won the Doha WC 2019 at 400 meters. In 2021, two years later, he took the Tokyo Olympic 400m title. Steven Gardiner took the gold against a group of competitors who should have battled him, and perhaps, pushed him a bit harder. In the end, Steven Gardiner had all of the cards and took the gold with a carefully run race.
Pierre Weil wrote this piece for @RunBlogRun. He’s been busy writing for us at the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials and the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
Gardiner Grabs Gold as Americans Fall Short
By Pierre Weil
TOKYO, Japan — Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas proved his win at the World Championships in the Men’s 400-meter dash in 2019 was no fluke as he pulled away from the field in the last 75 meters to win Olympic gold in 43.85 seconds.
“I came across the line and saw my name on the big screen and I was in the first place,” Gardiner said. “I’m cherishing this moment. Olympic champion.”
Despite getting a slow start, the 25-year-old Gardiner looked incredibly comfortable throughout the whole race, and no one else stood a chance in the home stretch. Gardiner pushed through knee and ankle injuries this season to become just the fifth athlete from the Bahamas to win an individual Olympic Track medal.
“When I saw that I was in front, the pain was unbearable, but I just wanted to win,” Gardiner said.
The race for silver was won by Anthony Zambrano of Colombia with a time of 44.08 seconds. Zambrano, also the runner-up at the World Championships in 2019, stormed back from 5th place off the final turn to grab his spot on the podium.
“I am very happy to win this medal and I want to dedicate this to my family, my country But more importantly, to my mother because it is her birthday today,” said Zambrano. “I want to show to the world that Colombia belongs on the athletics stage.”
Kirani James of Grenada completed his podium cycle in this event with a time of 44.19. James barely out-leaned American Michael Cherry for bronze by .02 seconds.
James, the gold medalist in London and silver medalist in Rio, was thankful just to be back on the podium after being diagnosed with Grave’s Disease, a condition that causes an overactive thyroid, back in 2017.
“I’m just happy to be back on the podium, happy competing against these guys, they are so good,” James said.
The top American runner Michael Norman, a heavy medal favorite coming into the race, ended fifth. Norman, who owns the fourth-fastest time ever in this event, was looking to win in Japan, where his mother is from. A disappointing finish in the end, but the 23-year-old from USC will be a big name to watch over the next few years.