Wed, Aug 22, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Jeremy Wariner confident of breaking 400m record

AP , PHOENIX, ARIZONA

Jeremy Wariner of the US wins the men's 400m final at the Crystal Palace Grand Prix in London on Aug. 3.

PHOTO: AP

Jeremy Wariner enters the athletics World Championships in the best condition of his life and confident that he is very close to breaking Michael Johnson's 400m world record.

His efforts in races and in practice this year support the young US runner's optimism about bringing down a mark in Japan that is held by one of the sport's greatest performers.

Wariner, at age 23 the event's reigning Olympic and world champion, was timed in 43.5 seconds at the DN Galan meet in Sweden on Aug. 7, a mark that makes him the third-fastest 400m runner in athletics history.

Only Johnson and Harry Reynolds have run faster. Wariner's personal best came four days after a 44.05 in London.

Based on those races, on Monday Wariner said: "There's no telling what I can do in Osaka."

He spoke during a conference call before heading to Osaka, Japan, where the world championships begin on Saturday.

The 400m preliminaries are next Tuesday.

Clyde Hart, the 400m guru who also coached Johnson, has had Wariner running most 200s this year to build up his strength. It seems to be working.

In practice on his home track in Waco, Texas, last week, Wariner said that Hart showed him the workout records of Johnson seven days before he set the world record of 43.18 on Aug. 25, 1999, in Seville, Spain.

Wariner's practice times last Wednesday were faster.

"My workouts have been getting better. I'm stronger, I'm quicker," Wariner said.

"This year I know it's a big year. I'm trying to defend my world championship. I can get the world record, I know I can, especially the way I ran in Stockholm," he said.

Not that he's guaranteeing the mark will fall.

"I'm not going to go after it," he said. "If the record comes, it comes. It's winning that's important. With the victory hopefully I'll have the world record at the same time. I've got a whole long career ahead of me. It's one race."

When Johnson broke Reynolds' record at the 1999 World Championships, it seemed it would be untouchable.

So did Johnson's 19.32 world record in the 200m that he set at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Now that mark is being challenged, too -- Tyson Gay ran the second-fastest 200m ever, 19.62, at the US Championships last month.

Gay is threatening the 100m record, too, and Wariner believes that mark will be broken in Osaka, either by Gay or Jamaican Asafa Powell.

One big reason for all the record talk is the ultra-fast Osaka track.

Wariner ran a 44.02 -- second-fastest in the world this year -- on the Japanese oval on May 5, a time that surprised him because he wasn't in top condition that early in the season.

Wariner also expects a US sweep of the event and said that even a 1-2-3-4 US finish would be no big surprise.

Wariner and fellow US runners Angelo Taylor, LaShawn Merritt and Kerron Clement are the four fastest in the event this year.

That kind of talent makes a world record in the 1,600m relay in Osaka a strong possibility, too.

"I think the world record could be taken easily," Wariner said. "We have so much talent, we could throw anybody in there and win. If we have the four right guys, we can break the record."

The relay is on Sept. 2, the meet's last day and two days after the 400 final that Wariner seems virtually certain he will win.

"If I run my race like I have been," he said, "like I did in Stockholm and like I have in the last year, they're not going to beat me."

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