BERLIN (Reuters) - Olympic 400 meters champion LaShawn Merritt deposed twice world champion Jeremy Wariner with a powerful finish to grab the only major title missing from his collection in a time of 44.06 seconds on Friday.
The 23-year-old Merritt surged ahead in the home straight with fellow American Wariner, who was seeking his third successive world title, unable to keep up with his powerful opponent who ended with the best time of the year.
Rennie Quow from Trinidad & Tobago was third.
“It was all about putting it from my head to the track,” Merritt told reporters. “I had already won the race in my heart.”
“I ran this race a million times in my head. At 300 meters I felt good and at 350 I knew I had won the race so I just needed to bring it home.”
Merritt emerged from Wariner’s shadow in Beijing when he won the Olympic title by the widest margin since 1896. Wariner had pledged to come back from that defeat and with a good start looked strong going into the bend.
Hitting the home stretch, though, Merritt accelerated with Wariner visibly struggling and finished some six meters ahead of his rival.
“I felt good coming up for the first part of the race,” said Wariner. “I think I was in a good position coming up for the turn, exactly where I wanted to be.
“I had to kick for it but unfortunately it was a slow finish. I feel kind of disappointed because I wanted to defend my title.”
With no love lost between them, the pair, who helped the United States win a 4x400 relay gold in Beijing, will have to team up again for the relays on Sunday.
Editing by Ken Ferris