Two athletes who came out of nowhere to earn their first major medals will be surrounded by four multiple medalists in the Prefontaine Classic men’s 400-meter hurdles.
The race features athletes who collectively are five of the six IAAF Diamond League winners and own at least one individual medal from each Olympics and World Championships for the last decade, as well as eight No. 1 world rankings from Track & Field News.
Kenya’s Nicholas Bett and Jeffery Gibson of the Bahamas will be the focus of many curious eyes, coming in as the gold and bronze medalists from last summer’s World Championships in Beijing. Before last year, the best each had accomplished was a bronze medal: Bett at the African Championships, Gibson at the Commonwealth Games.
Bett, 26, was among the most unlikely of gold medalists. He rocketed out of the blocks in lane 9 and held on for the win, lowering his PR by half a second to 47.79 with the victory.
Gibson, 25, was third in Beijing, edging American Kerron Clement by 0.01 seconds. He had already collected gold last summer by winning the Pan-American Games. While Bett will be making his debut on U.S. soil, Gibson has experienced success already at Hayward Field, running PRs twice in the NCAA Championships while at Oral Roberts (2011 regionals and 2013 final, taking 5th).
Bershawn Jackson, 33, ran his best in 2015 in five years to rank No. 1 in the world by T&FN. It was his third such ranking, matching 2010 and 2005. Jackson – known also by his nickname Batman – won his fifth U.S. title last summer, matching Edwin Moses for the most in this event in the post-World War II era. Jackson was not only fast enough in this event to win World gold (2005), but also to make gold medal-winning teams for the traditionally powerful U.S. 4×400 (2007 & 2011 Worlds, 2010 World Indoors). He is the Pre Classic’s only two-time winner in this event (2005 & ’09) and won the overall Diamond League last year as well as in the 2010 inaugural year.
Kerron Clement, 30, also ran his best last year since 2010, missing a medal at last summer’s World Championships by 0.01 seconds to Gibson. His collection of three major medals is the best in the field, with golds in the 2007 and ’09 Worlds separated by Olympic silver in 2008. Those came during a three-year stretch where Clement was ranked No. 1 in the world by T&FN – the longest by an American except for Edwin Moses, who had six from 1976-81. In terms of pure speed, no one is faster than Clement – literally indoors, where his 44.57 set as a 19-year-old sophomore at Florida in 2005 remains the world record. Outdoors he has run 44.48 and twice won gold medals on the U.S. 4×4 team (2007 & ’09 Worlds).
American Michael Tinsley, 32, is another Diamond League winner, taking the 2014 title. He was a tick away from having a gold of his own, being outleaned by Jehue Gordon at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow. He also owns silver from the 2012 Olympics, where he first broke the 48-second barrier. Tinsley was ranked No. 2 in the world by T&FN in 2013 and ’14 and won his first national championship at Hayward Field in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Javier Culson, 31, of Puerto Rico ranked No. 1 in the world in 2014 by T&FN as well as in 2012, the year he earned Olympic bronze – the first Olympic track medal for Puerto Rico. Along with Jackson, Culson is a two-time Diamond League winner in this event (2012 & ’13) and is seeking his first major gold – he owns World silvers in 2009 & ’11. He is the only one in the field to have run in the last two Olympics.
Yasmani Copello, 29, was born in Cuba and is in his second full year of competing for Turkey, coincidentally the two best years of his career. In 2015, he made the World Championships final, finishing 6th after setting his fourth national record of the year in the semifinals. He opened this year’s campaign a second faster than last year.
Kariem Hussein, 27, of Switzerland is the reigning European Championships gold medalist, winning in 2014 and ranking No. 4 in the world by T&FN. Last year he ran his fastest yet, 48.45, winning the Swiss national championship for the fifth straight year.
Men’s 400-Meter Hurdles Personal Best
Kerron Clement (USA) 47.24
Bershawn Jackson (USA) 47.30
Michael Tinsley (USA) 47.70
Javier Culson (Puerto Rico) 47.72
Nicholas Bett (Kenya) 47.79
Jeffery Gibson (Bahamas) 48.17
Kariem Hussein (Switzerland) 48.45
Yasmani Copello (Turkey) 48.64
Fans can follow the event lineups on eugene.diamondleague.com. The direct link to current start/entry lists is posted HERE and will include updates to all announced fields. Additional news, photos, and videos may be found on PreClassic.com, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Tickets for the 42nd annual edition of the Prefontaine Classic, to be held May 27-28 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., are available now at www.GoDucks.com as well as from 1-800-WEBFOOT.
The Prefontaine Classic is the longest-running outdoor invitational track & field meet in America and is part of the elite IAAF Diamond League of meets held worldwide annually. The Pre Classic’s results score has rated No. 1 or No. 2 in the world in each of the last five years by All-Athletics.com, the official data partner of the Diamond League. Sponsored by NIKE continuously since 1984, the Prefontaine Classic will be shown live to an international audience and by NBC and NBC Sports Network.
Steve Prefontaine is a legend in the sport of track & field and is the most inspirational distance runner in American history. He set a national high school 2-mile record (8:41.5) while at Marshfield High School in Coos Bay, Oregon, that is the fastest ever in a National Federation-sanctioned race. While competing for the University of Oregon, he won national cross country championships (3) and outdoor track 3-Mile/5000-meter championships (4), and never lost a collegiate track 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 21. 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 that year and has been held every year since.