Jamaicans could leap ahead

(Jamaica Glearner) The United States have been the most dominant country in the men’s 400 metres hurdles, demonstrated at the Beijing Olympics last year as they swept the medals with Angelo Taylor taking gold, Kerron Clement silver, and Bershawn Jackson bronze.

Jamaica’s Danny McFarlane narrowly finished fourth. Next month, along with national champion Isa Phillips and youngster Josef Robertson, will be hoping to spoil the Americans’ party at the World Championships in Germany.

Although McFarlane has been the most successful of the three with a fourth-place finish in Paris in 2003 and fifth two years ago in Osaka, Phillips will provide Jamaica with its best chance of a medal.

The former St Andrew Technical High athlete who was a semi-finalist two years ago in Osaka has been one of the most consistent 400m hurdlers this season and, come next month, he could give the country its first gold medal at a major championships in this event.

National record holder Winthrop Graham who got silver in Tokyo in 1991 and bronze in Stuttgart in 1993 has the best results for Jamaica at these championships.

The Americans will be well represented as their three medallists in Beijing will be joined by Johnny Dutch. Defending champion Clement got a bye into the event.

Despite their credentials, Phillips is on a mission and will not be intimidated by the Americans, as he has shown all season, and with his 48.05 seconds at the National Championships, he is at present the number-two ranked athlete in this event, just behind Jackson (48.03).

Despite a busy schedule this season, Phillips seems to be getting better and better after each competition and has taken the scalps of all the Americans so far, except Jackson who defeated him in a close finish at the Prefontaine Classic.

He has beaten the defending champion Clement on three occasions this season despite going down to him by two hundredths of a second the last time they met.

Going into the championships, Phillips is confident as he definitely has the ticket of the defending champion but will be wary of the fact that Taylor, who was third at the American National Championships, and world-leader Jackson have limited their performances going to Berlin. However, with his improved technique and excellent form, Phillips could go all the way.

Both Taylor and Clement clocked sub-48 seconds in Beijing last year for the two top spots and come Berlin it could take sub-48 seconds to win the world title but this is not beyond Phillips who could join Graham as the only Jamaican to go under the 48 second-mark and give the country a historic win in this event.

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