Roger Black: Merritt's exit from the 400m gives the outsiders a chance to lap it up

The Expert View: With the American out, the Brits have a good chance of making the final

My old event, the men's 400m, is going to be like no other we've seen for many years in the Olympic Games. The fact that LaShawn Merritt failed to get round in his first-round heat yesterday, pulling up injured before halfway, has completely changed the dynamics.

Merritt was the defending champion. He won in Beijing four years ago and two other Americans, Jeremy Wariner and David Neville, took silver and bronze. Historically, in the men's 400m, you've had three great Americans and they usually win the medals.

Now, with Merritt out, there are no Americans who are going to factor in London. Suddenly, it's a very different event.

It's been won by Americans at every Games since 1984 – Alonzo Babers that year in Los Angeles, Steve Lewis in Seoul in 1988, Quincy Watts in Barcelona in 1992, Michael Johnson in Atlanta in 1996 and in Sydney in 2000, Jeremy Wariner in Athens in 2004, Merritt in Beijing in 2008.

You've now got the widest open 400m ever at an Olympics. You've also got Great Britain in with a big chance of a medal in the 4 x 400m relay. Without Merritt, the Americans don't have much of a team. Our chances of a medal now are huge.

That's significant. So was Jonathan Borlée of Belgium winning his heat in 44.43sec. To run that fast in the first round of an Olympic Games is madness. It's totally unnecessary.

Unless Borlée is in the best shape of his life and wins the Olympic Games, he may well live to regret that. You don't need to run that fast to qualify in the first round of an Olympic Games. That will take stuff out of him.

Kirani James, the 19-year-old from Grenada who won the world title ahead of Merritt last year, showed how to do it, jogging round in 45.23sec. In the first round, you get it out of the way without doing too much.

The semi-final should be quick – because obviously it's a very fast track – so if Borlée really is in great shape he'll probably threaten the European record, which is fantastic.

It's about time that it went. It's stood at 44.33sec to Thomas Schonlebe of East Germany since 1987. A few of us have come close to it. It's time someone broke it.

It would be good if it was Jonathan Borlée. The Borlée twins – Jonathan and his fellow 400m runner Kevin – are a lovely story. They're big, big news in Belgium.

It would be nice to see Schonlebe's record go. But don't assume just because someone runs well in the first round that they can do it in the semi-final.

As I said, I think the event is wide open now. It's good. It's the changing of the guard.

James is the favourite, but we'll know more after the semi-finals. First rounds don't really tell you much.

The good news is all the Brits have got through – Martyn Rooney, Nigel Levine and Conrad Williams. With Merritt pulling out, they've got a much better chance of making it to an Olympic final, which has to be the goal. I'm sure there's a chance that one of them, probably Rooney, will make the final.

It's pleasing to see Oscar Pistorius making the semi-finals. It's an amazing achievement.

We should celebrate that he's out there doing it. The world is watching a man with no legs compete against people with legs. It's truly inspirational and it's historic.

Let's all put all of the rights and wrongs of Oscar competing to one side for now. He's here at the Olympic Games. Let's celebrate an incredible human being, which is what he is.

Roger Black will be writing for 'The Independent', 'The Independent on Sunday' and the 'Evening Standard' during the Games, and is an ambassador for Scottish Widows, the official pensions and investments provider for the London 2012 Olympic Games. As part of the Lloyds Banking Group, Scottish Widows is proud to be an Official Provider of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

News
Disruption at Waterloo after a person was hit by a train
newsCancellations and disrupted service after person hit by train
News
Kirsty Bertarelli is launching a singing career with an album of songs detailing her observations of “real life”
news
News
The show will be billed as Clarkson, Hammond and May Live
people
Arts and Entertainment
The almost deserted Liverpool Echo Arena on Monday
tvCan X Factor last in the face of plummeting numbers auditioning
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence