Grenada’s Atlethic hero and reigning Olympic champion Kirani James broke Michael Johnson‘s Drake Relays 400m record on Friday night, beating rival World champion LaShawn Merritt handily, in their first head-to-head race this season.
James, of Grenada, clocked 44.22 seconds in Des Moines, Iowa, topping Johnson’s mark of 44.41 from 1996. Only two men — Johnson and 2004 Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner — have ever run faster this early in a year, according to the IAAF.
“It just shows that I am in great shape,” James told Lewis Johnson on Universal Sports. “Good things can happen this season, but nothing is guaranteed. It’s still early.”
Merritt, who succeeded James as World champion in 2013, was a disappointing fifth in 45.27.
Merritt, the 2008 Olympic 400m champion, has not placed lower than second in any top-level international 400m race that he has finished since 2006.
“Today wasn’t about the time,” Merritt told Lewis Johnson on Universal Sports. “Coach said go out and work on some things. … I didn’t do so well as far as place-wise, but I feel good.”
In 2014, James clocked a world-leading 43.74 with Merritt ranking second at 43.92. They’re the only two men to run sub-44 seconds since 2008.