International Athletics

Rivalries can revive athletics - James

2015-05-16 12:11
Kirani James (AP)

Shanghai - Head-to-head rivalries featuring the world's leading athletes are the best way forward for the beleaguered sport of track and field, according to Olympic 400 metres champion Kirani James.

The Grenadian 22-year-old puts his beliefs into action by never shying away from battle with his main rival for one-lap supremacy, American world champion LaShawn Merritt.

On Sunday, the pair will meet for the 14th time over the distance at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai, with James adamant that building up such rivalries is key for a sport whose popularity has taken such a hit from doping scandals and ineffective promotion.

The issue has been highlighted again with the likelihood that Justin Gatlin, currently the world number one sprinter, and Usain Bolt, the great Olympic and world champion, are unlikely to race all season until the world championships in Beijing in August.

"Some athletes have different circumstances and their own reasons why they don't compete in certain meetings and that's up to them, but I think head-to-head rivalries bring a lot more excitement to the sport," James told Reuters on Friday.

"For me, when I compete, I try to put on a good performance for the fans, just make it exciting and not focus on whether I'm going to win or lose. Once you do that, everyone wins because the sport wins."

Having beaten Merritt eight times and lost five, he added: "We just want to compete. He (Merritt) says it and I say it. We just want to make it exciting for the fans and once we do that, everything's all right."

Organisers of the Diamond League, the sport's major season-long showpiece, have taken on board this need to promote individual rivalries.

They opened up in Doha on Friday with a series of spectacular competitions, including the best triple jump duel in history between Cuba's victorious Pedro Pablo Pichardo (18.06 metres) and American Christian Taylor (18.04m).

Shanghai hopes to follow suit on Sunday, with excellent head-to-heads between the world's two top high jumpers, Bohdan Bondarenko and Mutaz Essa Barshim, who have Javier Sotomayor's world record as a target this summer, and a long jump featuring Olympic champion Greg Rutherford, world champion Aleksandr Menkov and world number one Jeff Henderson.

With other major attractions including a sprint hurdles showdown between Olympic champion Aries Merritt and world champion David Oliver on the programme, James believes athletics still has the sort of cast lists to ensure a revival for a wounded sport.

"There's a lot of great athletes out there and events like mine, like the men's high jump and both men and women's hurdles that are really competitive," said James.

"I think somewhere, something has gone wrong in the marketing of the sport but if the right people are in the right positions, I still think the sky's the limit for track and field."

Read more on:    kirani james  |  athletics

What To Read Next


Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.
Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

Love 2 Meet
Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter


With the Absa Premiership in full swing, who will be crowned champions when all is said and done? Will Mamelodi Sundowns defend their title? Or can Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates or Bidvest Wits mount a serious challenge? Stay glued to Sport24 to find out!

Latest blogs

How much of a runner are you?

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.