Wariner leads Americans to 400m clean sweep
The USA’s Jeremy Wariner was the very clear favourite in the men's 400m in Athens. He had been the outstanding one-lap athlete of the year, having clocked under 45 seconds at every event he entered in the months leading up to the Games.
Wariner had been something of a reluctant convert to the track. His first love was American Football, and he had earned a place at university by virtue of his prowess as a running back. His sprinting ability was central to his success as a footballer, but, as he became older, it became clear that it could be put to better use in a more direct way, so he turned his attentions to the running track.
Unsurprisingly, he cruised through the 400m heats and semi-finals in Athens, qualifying fastest for the final in a time of 44.87 seconds.
His greatest challenge appeared to come from within the US team. Derrick Brew and Otis Harris had also qualified impressively and were in the central lanes alongside Wariner. All three exuded an air of confidence, but Wariner, who sported his trademark sunglasses, was clearly the man to beat.
The three went off together and moved to the front. But it was Harris who held a slender lead as the runners went past the 200m mark. He was just in front as the trio entered the back straight, but now Wariner's strength began to show; after drawing level with his team-mate he then edged into the lead.
Once ahead, Wariner was never likely to lose and he crossed the line in exactly 44 seconds, with Harris taking silver and Brew completing the American sweep of the medals. It was the sixth time in a row that an American had won the 400m title.
All three medallists returned to the track as part of the US 4x400m relay team that won the gold medal by 4.69 seconds, the widest margin of victory in history.
Wariner continued to produce dominant performances, winning the 400m world title in 2005 and 2007. He was beaten into second place in the 2008 Olympic final in Beijing by another American, LaShawn Merritt, although he did earn another gold medal in the 4x400m competition, as the US quartet set a new Olympic record.