The men’s 400m was a record breaker at the World Championships last year, representing the first time that three athletes had ever gone under 44 seconds in the same race over the distance.
South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk became the fourth fastest man ever with his 43.48 clocking, LaShawn Merritt set a new personal best of his own with a 43.65 time in second, with Kirani James securing bronze in 43.78, just four hundredths of a second outside of his lifetime best.
All three are set to lock horns again at the Olympic Games in Rio, with Van Niekerk the 5/6 favourite to take gold again.
The South African is certainly rounding into form at the right time, winning the Monaco Diamond League 400m in a season’s best 44.13.
However, there are reasons to believe that even quicker times are in the pipeline, notably because he has begun training with Usain Bolt to improve upon his outright speed. Van Niekerk recently ran the third fastest 300m in history behind Bolt himself and the legendary Michael Johnson.
The 24-year-old does look the rightful favourite, but Merritt has to be considered the value bet at a monstrous 5/1 to win the men’s Olympic 400m.
As things stand, his 43.97 run to secure victory in the US Olympic trials is the quickest in the world this year and this was despite Merritt looking way short of flat out down the home straight with the success well in hand.
Meanwhile, his 19.74 effort over 200m is also the fastest seen in that event in 2016, suggesting he is far from lacking in the speed department.
In the World Championships, Merritt had the outside lane of the three medallists, which is regarded as a disadvantage because an athlete is forced to set their own pace.
A better lane draw in Rio where he can judge his pace from Van Niekerk could be critical, but the gap between the pair in 2016 over 400m is much closer than the odds suggest at this point.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.