article by Nicholas Pucci
At the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the 400m race is among the most awaited and uncertain on the eveand finally it will end up giving a response of the highest chronometric value.
I Trials select Americans left home Butch Reynolds, world record holder with the time of 43 “29 obtained in Brussels in 1988then ran into a long and difficult legal dispute with the IAAF for the life ban inflicted on him for being positive for nandrolone during the Montecarlo meeting in 1990. Reynolds returns to racing but fifth place rejects him, as does Antonio Pettigrew, reigning world champion, is not present by virtue of the title conquered in Tokyo in 1991. The United States thus line up, among the 69 registered for the race, a trio that is made up of Steve Lewis, reigning Olympic champion for the title conquered in Seoul in 1988, Danny Everett, who was third in Korea also behind Reynolds himself, just as he was also third in Tokyo and holds the best seasonal performance, 43″81, and the unexpected Quincy Watts, who discovered the specialty only a year ago and in Tokyo was silver with the US 4×400m relay.
Among the pretenders to the medals are also to be counted two top Europeans, the British Roger Black who won the continental title in Split in 1990, and the German Thomas Schonlebe, second in that event as well as world champion in Rome in 1987while among the outsiders are the Kenyan Samson Kitur, winner of the gold medal at the 1991 Pan-African Games, the “veteran” Ian Morris of Trinidad&Tobago, who has a good collection of second places in his career, the other Briton Derek Redmond and the Cuban Roberto Hernandez, who in turn triumphed at the Pan American Games.
All’Montjuïc Olympic Stadium, the heats of August 1 reject the ambitions of the Nigerian Innocent Egbunike to do well (silver at the 1987 World Cup in Rome) who is only fourth in the fifth series, also behind the blue Andrea Nuti, who qualifies for the next round, while Maurizio Vaccari is eliminated. The best time is set by Redmond, 45″02, but already in the quarterfinals, on August 2nd, the favorites are starting to get serious, with Lewis confirming his intention to aim for the Olympic double by running in 44″54 in the last series which instead sees the elimination not only of Andrea Nuti, but also of a Schonlebe in poor form.
The two semi-finals take place on 3 August. In the first Lewis imposes himself without forcing in 44 “50 in front of Hernandez, in the second instead Watts goes wildwho not only dominates the competition (including Everett finishing last thanks to an injury, and Black who is only fifth albeit with a time of 44″72, the same as Hernandez) but with the stopwatch of 43″71 he signs the new Olympic record and the second performance “all-time“.
In fact Watts becomes the favorite in a final which according to forecasts will have to end in a duel between him and Lewis, and in fact on August 5th things go exactly like this. Watts is in lane number 4, Lewis in lane number 7, but really there is no story, Watts “flies” even faster in 43″50, leaving Lewis, who also had a very strong start, four meters away, 44″21, to anticipate Samson Kitur, 44″24, by a hair’s breadth, who takes a magnificent bronze medal, ahead of Ian Morris, also beaten by just 1 cent, 44″25. Hernandez finished fifth, with the English Grindley sixth, the Qatari athlete Muftah seventh and the Japanese Takano eighth, demonstrating the universality of the 400 meters which see competitors from 5 continents in the final.