Steven Gardiner is in rare company. He is in uncommon territory. Gardiner has gone under 44 seconds twice, the last time, just about a week ago in Dohar, Qatar. The 43.87 for an easy Diamond League 400 meters first place gave Gardiner a meet, stadium, and national record.
He goes into this weekend’s Diamond League event in Shanghai, China as the leading 400 meters runner in the world and is definitely a marked man for the other elite competitors. They know that other than just a tough foe to come up against, but he is getting better and stands as a legitimate challenger for the world record of 43.03, now held by South African Wayde van Niekerk.
Although he is indeed the world record holder, van Niekerk, when healthy figures to be hard-pressed when he steps up to the Bahamian. The next time, van Niekerk will be clashing with a much more confident and improved Gardiner than the runner he comfortably outpaced when he won the gold at the IAAF World Championships last year. Gardiner took second for the silver, a few days following an exhausting semi-final in which he clocked 43.89.
The native Abaconian has established himself as global star, one that is still rising. He looks to become entrenched as one of the all-time best, and not just flash for a few years.
It is noteworthy that 2018 marks the 50th year since Americans Lee Evans and Larry James eclipsed the 44 seconds standard for the 400 meters in 1968. Indeed, half a century later, Gardiner is poised to do what no other Bahamian has done, achieve a world outdoor track record. (Tommy Robinson and Danny Smith held the 300 yards and 50-yard high hurdles indoor marks, respectively).
The man who discovered Gardiner, coached and nurtured him into a top talent, Rev. Anthony Williams, sees the world record in the future
“I believe he might go after it next year, not this year. He is picking up very fast. He just needs to maintain himself. I would advise that he go after the record next year. I don’t know what they have planned.
“I don’t know what he and has coach have in mind, but my advice would be to focus on the world record next year.
“Of course, you don’t know what will happen when van Niekerk comes back and they hook up,” said Coach Williams.
On Wednesday, Coach Williams also took the opportunity to throw out a challenge to the government.
“The Bahamas Government should help this young man out (more). Look what Steve has done. The Bahamas Government should celebrate this young man. He has the ability to do really great things and if he gets the right financial assistance, the country would be quite proud of him and his achievements. I feel strongly about that,” said the coach who is based in Moore’s Island at his homemade sports academy.
Gardiner was Coach’s Williams’ prized pupil. He has come a mighty long way. Only 12 men in history have travelled the 400 meters distance faster than Gardiner. Certainly, the government should revisit its financial program for elite athletes. Gardiner is a tremendous commodity.
Meanwhile, the expectation is that the 22-year-old will simply move on from strength to strength on the world stage, as one of those very unique athletic products that come along just once in a while.