LONDON, England, August 6 – Teenager Kirani James powered to gold in the men’s 400m on Monday to win Grenada’s first Olympic medal of any colour and become the first non-American winner of the event since 1980.
James, 19, the reigning world champion, dominated the field, winning in 43.94sec. Luguelin Santos, also 19, of the Dominican Republic, took silver in 44.46sec while Trinidad and Tobago’s Lalonde Gordon took bronze.
The Grenadan made his move in the final 150m, coming off the bend with a clear lead and never looked like being caught.
His time was a new national record for the Caribbean island nation and he also became the first non-US athlete to dip under 44 seconds for the one-lap race.
The United States has been utterly dominant in the race since Victor Markin, representing the former Soviet Union, won the event in the boycott-blighted 1980 Moscow Olympics, where the US did not compete.
Last year James became the second youngest world gold medallist when he outdipped LaShawn Merritt of the United States. Merritt, the defending Olympic champion, pulled up in his heat in London on Saturday and limped off the track.
James set world age-group records for the 400m when he was 13, 14 and 15, winning double 200-400m golds at the 2009 world youth championships, before being crowned world junior champion in the 400m a year later.
While Usain Bolt ran 45.35sec for the 400m as a 16-year-old, James timed 45.24 at the same age.
The world record holder in the event remains US great Michael Johnson, who timed 43.18sec in 1999, but many observers believe James has the potential to threaten that time.