PreClassic..400m PREVIEW

May 16, 2012
For Immediate Release

 Eugene, Oregon – Even the best in the world have competition, and the reigning World Champions in the men’s and women’s 400 meters at the 38th Prefontaine Classic are no exception. Each will feel pressure from previous Olympic or World gold medalists as the Pre Classic has assembled astonishing fields in both events. The Pre Classic, a major stop on the road to the 2012 London Olympics, and part of the elite Samsung Diamong League of international meets, will be held June 1-2 at Eugene, Ore. The men’s 400 headlines Kirani James of Grenada, who won the World Championships in Daegu last year as an 18-year old. James has already made a path of gold: 2009 World Youth gold, 2010 World Junior gold, 2011 World Championships gold. An Olympic gold in London would make him the first teenager to accomplish such a feat since Steve Lewis of the U.S. in 1988. In Daegu today, he affirmed his fitness with a nearly one-second win in 44.72 over an international field. At Pre, James will contend with four other Olympic or World Championships gold medalists, led by the reigning Olympic champion, LaShawn Merritt of the U.S. Merritt and James waged a memorable duel last year at the World Championships in Daegu, with James better by just 0.03. Merritt, also the 2009 World Champion, seeks to reclaim the top spot. American Jeremy Wariner, 2004 Olympic gold medalist, had an “off” year in 2011 but has more gold than anyone in the field. He “only” ranked No. 7 last year in the world by Track & Field News while recovering from injury. He feels healthy, which means trouble for the rest of the world as he was ranked No. 1 in the world five times from 2004-2010 (the other two years he was No. 2). The Pre 400 field isn’t nearly finished. Completing the sweep of medalists from last year’s World Championships is Kevin Borlée of Belgium, the bronze medalist. He is also the reigning European Championships gold medalist. American Angelo Taylor has beaucoup gold, two in the 400-meter hurdles at the 2000 and 2008 Olympics. As outstanding as he has been in the 400-meter hurdles, he has quite a resume in the 400, ranking among the top 10 by T&FN in the world five times in the event even while concentrating on the 400-meter hurdles. Taylor is the defending Prefontaine Classic 400 champion. Christopher Brown of the Bahamas, ranked No. 4 in the world last year by T&FN, is another gold medalist confirmed. He is a three-time Olympic veteran and the 2010 World Indoor Championships gold medalist. Bahamian countrymate Demetrius Pinder, silver medalist at this year’s World Indoor Championships, will join him. Brown and Pinder aim to mount a charge to challenge the U.S. in the 4x400 relay in London. Yet another medalist, Oscar Pistorius of South Africa, is in the field. Called by many the “Blade Runner,” he is a double amputee who has successfully climbed to compete among the world’s elite. He was a member of South Africa’s 4 x 400-meter relay team that earned the silver medal at last year’s World Championships. Men’s 400 Meters Kirani James (Grenada) LaShawn Merritt (USA) Kevin Borlée (Belgium) Christopher Brown (Bahamas) Jeremy Wariner (USA) Angelo Taylor (USA) Demetrius Pinder (Bahamas) Oscar Pistorius (South Africa) Returning to Eugene will be the top-rated women’s 400 runner in the world, Amantle Montsho of Botswana. Montsho won the gold medal at last year’s World Championships in Daegu after a series of years knocking on the door and not giving up. Without much fanfare, she ranked No. 2 in the world by T&FN in 2010. The gold in Daegu was her first, and still only, global medal at any level as she rose to No. 1 in 2011. Her best is 49.56 from last year. But Montsho has many of the world’s very best looking to move ahead. Prime among them is American Sanya Richards-Ross, the 2009 World Championships gold medalist and ranked No. 1 in the world by T&FN five straight years (2005-09). Richards-Ross, among those vanquished in Daegu by Montsho last year, is looking to return to No. 1 form. She proved she is once again healthy by winning the World Indoor Championships gold medal in Istanbul in March. Her PR is 48.60 from 2006. Another of the world’s best, Anastastiya Kapachinskaya of Russia, will challenge the field. She’s the bronze medalist at last year’s World Championships and was ranked No. 3 in the world last year by T&FN. She posted her PR of 49.35 last year Jamaica’s Novlene Williams-Mills set off a sound-alarm in early May when she defeated Richards-Ross at the Jamaica Invitational in 49.99, not far off her best of 49.63 from 2006. Ranked as high as No. 2 in the world by T&FN in 2006, she has eight Olympic or World Championships medals, but none gold – she aims to change that statistic. Fueling the U.S.-Jamaica rivalry is Shericka Williams, the 2008 Olympic and 2009 World Championships silver medalist. She has been ranked as high as No. 2 in the world by T&FN in 2009 and has a best of 49.32 from 2009. American Debbie Dunn (49.64) was ranked as high as No. 3 in the world by T&FN in 2010, and compatriot Natasha Hastings has a PR of 49.84, meaning every entry so far in this year’s Samsung Diamond League 400 Meters has broken 50-seconds in her career! Women’s 400 Meters Amantle Montsho (Botswana) Sanya Richards-Ross (USA) Anastasiya Kapachinskaya (Russia) Novlene Williams-Mills (Jamaica) Shericka Williams (Jamaica) Debbie Dunn (USA) Natasha Hastings (USA) With the addition of the men’s and women’s 400 meters, 55 athletes in this year’s Pre Classic have won 76 Olympic or World Championships gold medals. Meet organizers expect the greatest collection of talent ever for an invitational on this continent, as the 55 athletes account for 172 medals (76 gold, 52 silver, 44 bronze). And more events are still to be announced. Tickets for the 38th annual edition of the Prefontaine Classic, to be held June 1-2 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., are on sale now from and from 1-800-WEBFOOT. Sponsored by NIKE continuously since 1984, the Prefontaine Classic will be shown live to an international audience and on NBC from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 2. The Prefontaine Classic is the longest-running outdoor invitational track and field meet in America and is part of the elite Samsung Diamond League of 14 meets held worldwide annually. Last year’s Pre Classic results ranked highest among all of the 14 meets, according to, the official data Partnerof the Samsung Diamond League. Steve Prefontaine is a legend in the sport of track & field and is perhaps the most inspirational distance runner in American history. He set a national high school 2-mile record while at Coos Bay High School that lasted nearly two decades. While competing for the University of Oregon, he won national cross country championships (3) and outdoor track 3-mile/5000-meter championships (4) every time he competed, and never lost a collegiate race at any distance. As a collegiate junior, he made the 1972 U.S. Olympic Team and nearly won an Olympic medal, finishing 4th in the 5K at the 1972 Munich Olympics, at age 22. After finishing college in 1973 and preparing for a return to the Olympics in 1976, he continued to improve, setting many American records. His life ended tragically on May 30, 1975, the result of an auto accident, at age 24. The Pre Classic began soon after and has been held every year since.