Athletics-Americans Allison, Norman advance to 400m final with record-holder van Niekerk

By Amy Tennery

EUGENE, Ore. (Reuters) -American Champion Allison produced a remarkable comeback to advance to the 400 metres final at the World Championships, as compatriot Michael Norman stormed to the fastest finish on Wednesday.

World record-holder and twice world champion Wayde van Niekerk appeared to have a comfortable lead heading into the final 100 metres before Barbadian Jonathan Jones surged forward, running shoulder-to-shoulder with the South African.

But it was Allison, the second-fastest this year behind Norman, who recovered from about a metre back to sneak across the finish first, with van Niekerk, the Rio Olympic champion, holding on for the second automatic qualification spot.

“It is the challenge of doing this 400 (metres) and not having as many races in (the) legs as I would love to have by now,” said van Niekerk, who is back in form after missing the final at the Tokyo Olympics last year.

“It is a learning process in every race. I am listening to my body and executing that way.”

Trailing Matthew Hudson-Smith off the final turn, Norman accelerated down the final straight, inching past the Briton to win in 44.30 seconds, as Jamaican Christopher Taylor produced a speedy finish to advance as a fast loser.

“I felt like I kind of fell asleep in the last 50 (metres),” said Norman, who suffered a hamstring injury in Doha and failed to reach the podium in Tokyo.

“I had to work hard coming down the home straight… It is going to be a competitive race. It is all I can ask for.”

Kirani James of Grenada pulled away from a tight pack down the final straight to win his heat in 44.74, with American Michael Cherry, who finished just off the podium in Tokyo, losing his strength in the final metres and failing to advance.

“There is a lot of talented guys out there,” said James, who took bronze in Tokyo. “I am just happy to be back in the moment.”

(Reporting by Amy Tennery in Eugene, Oregon; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)