Moscow, Aug 14 (IANS): Kirani James went into the men's 400m final here at the 14th IAAF World Athletics Championships, not only as favourite to take gold, but also to maintain Grenada's place on the medal podium at a world event.
However, those wishes were blown away in less than 44 seconds by American LaShawn Merritt, who ran the race of his life, to finish in a personal best 43.74 seconds Tuesday night.
James came in as the only sub44 seconds man this season, but Merritt, the only man to beat him this year, went in with other plans. Merritt, drawn in lane 6, just ahead of James, never allowed his opponent to get too close.
Merritt was quick out of the blocks, sprinted down the backstretch and by time he got to the final curve, James was out of title contention.
James tried to push, but the harder he tried; he faded more and more, and in the end, just held on for 7th in 44.99secs.
The run left everyone, including James himself, asking what really went wrong. "It didn't go as planned, I actually died in the last 100 metres of the race, which never normally happened," he said while adding he will wait to "go over the tape to see what went wrong".
Tony McQuay, the American who finished second, added "I was surprised by Kirani's slow time, but he is still a great athlete. Everyone can have a bad day."
However, according to Merritt he was hungry for victory. "I've said it many times already, I was hungry. Probably the hungriest person in the field. No, I was starving. It's been a while since I was able to perform at my highest level," he said.