Carter sharp in first Helsinki test

Mervo alumnus runs 49.05 in hurdles heat in worlds, likes chances for medal

Track And Field

August 07, 2005|By Elliott Denman | Elliott Denman,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

HELSINKI, Finland - James Carter's bid for a world championships medal is off to a sizzling start.

The 27-year-old former Mervo Tech and Hampton University star has been a jetsetter on track and field's professional circuit for six years. He's been to two Olympic Games. He's been to one previous edition of his sport's biennial world championships. But he's yet to collect a big-games medal.

Well, the run of frustration may soon be over.

After breezing through his opening-round heat in the 400-meter hurdles at the 10th world championships in 49.05 seconds yesterday at Olympic Stadium, Carter declared himself "as ready as I've ever been."

He placed fourth in the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Olympic Games. He failed to make the final at the 2001 world championships in Edmonton and was one spot shy of qualifying for the U.S. team for the 2003 worlds in Paris.

"I've had too many of those things [near-misses] happen to me," he said. "It's time I got to the podium."

Yesterday's series of five-opening round races pared the field from 32 to 24. Today's heats will set the stage for Tuesday's eight-man final.

The four-year reign of Felix Sanchez as No. 1 in the world in the 400 hurdles is clearly endangered.

The Southern California graduate who represents the Dominican Republic took the gold in 2004 in Athens in 47.63, and the world titles in 2001 (47.49) and 2003 (47.25), but he limped off the track with an ankle problem yesterday after a 49.47 qualifying race.

"I can't be thinking about Felix's problems," said Carter. "I just have to focus on my own race."

Carter's two young American teammates command their own share of attention. Kerron Clement, the 19-year-old Florida sophomore, led all qualifiers in 48.98 seconds. Bershawn Jackson, 22, a St. Augustine College (Raleigh, N.C.) product, advanced easily in 49.34.

Other leading opening-round performers included Dai Tamesue of Japan (49.17), Bayano Kamani of Panama (49.18), Periklis Iakovakis of Greece (49.22) and Kemel Thompson of Jamaica (49.34).

"Technically, I felt fine," said Carter. "I got my rhythm down, and I ran slow enough that it didn't take anything out of me.

"My European season [leading up to the worlds] was great, probably the best since I've been running, and my most consistent.

"The Paris race [47.95] was my best. I just hopped off the plane and went out to the stadium, Never did anything like that before."

He also won races in Rome; London; Lausanne, Switzerland; and Osaka, Japan.

"Anything's possible now here," said Carter. "I thought so after the U.S. nationals [five weeks ago in Carson, Calif.], and I still do. A lot of guys can win. I know I'll be up there somewhere."

Vikas Gowda, however, had tougher luck.

The Frederick High School graduate and North Carolina senior, representing India, where he was born 22 years ago, wound up 14th in the qualifying round in the discus, in which 12 advanced to tonight's final.

His best effort of 203-6 missed the cut by just 27 inches.

Gowda, at 6 feet 9 and 275 pounds the largest man in the field and the lone Indian male entry in the worlds, had a superb 2005 season for North Carolina. winning the Penn Relays title and taking the silver medal in the NCAA championships.

But he hadn't had a meet since the end of the college season and the rust showed.

A seven-time Maryland state champion in the shot put as well as the discus, he's a math major who hopes to chalk up some major numbers in the discus in the years ahead.

"This meet and the Asian championships [Sept. 1-4 in Inchon, South Korea] were my main goals all year," said Gowda. "So I still have one to go."

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