Going into the Championships, defending champion LaShawn Merritt was serving a 2-year ban. The ban was still in effect during the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, so Merritt was unable to compete. Ordinarily, since 1997, the defending champion is automatically invited to the championships, but the United States stipulates that the champion must compete in the national championships. It took a special decision by USATF to allow Merritt to enter. Merritt had minimal racing opportunities prior to the championships.
In qualifying, ordinarily athletes try to use the minimum effort to advance to the next round, but Merritt ran the year's world leading time of 44.35 in heat 3. The media focused on double amputee Oscar Pistorius, who ran 45.39 to qualify into the semi-finals.
In the semi-finals, Merritt ran a more controlled and relaxed 44.76 in semi 1, while Jermaine Gonzales controlled semi 3 in 44.99 and 18-year-old Kirani James ran an easy 45.20 to take semi 2. Rondell Bartholomew also qualified, placing two athletes from tiny Grenada in the final. Also twins Kévin and Jonathan Borlée placed two athletes from Belgium in the final. While his time from the trials would have made the final, Pistorius ran 46.19 in his semi and did not advance. Kirani James won the final beating LaShawn Merritt on the line with a time of 44.60. At 18 years, 363 days old, James became the youngest ever world medallist for the men's 400 m.
United States (USA)
Prior to the competition, the established records were as follows.
|World record||Michael Johnson (USA)||43.18||Seville, Spain||26 August 1999|
|World Leading||Kirani James (GRN)||44.61||London, Great Britain||5 August 2011|
|African record||Gary Kikaya (COD)||44.10||Stuttgart, Germany||9 September 2006|
|Asian record||Mohamed Amer Al-Malky (OMA)||44.56||Budapest, Hungary||12 August 1988|
|North, Central American and Caribbean record||Michael Johnson (USA)||43.18||Seville, Spain||26 August 1999|
|South American record||Sanderlei Parrela (BRA)||44.29||Seville, Spain||26 August 1999|
|European record||Thomas Schönlebe (GDR)||44.33||Rome, Italy||3 September 1987|
|Oceanian record||Darren Clark (AUS)||44.38||Seoul, South Korea||26 September 1988|
|A time||B time|
|August 28, 2011||11:15||Heats|
|August 29, 2011||20:00||Semifinals|
|August 30, 2011||21:45||Final|
|KEY:||q||Fastest non-qualifiers||Q||Qualified||NR||National record||PB||Personal best||SB||Seasonal best|
Qualification: First 4 in each heat (Q) and the next 4 fastest (q) advance to the semifinals.
Qualification: First 2 in each heat (Q) and the next 2 fastest (q) advance to the final.
|5||Kirani James||Grenada (GRN)||44.60|
|4||LaShawn Merritt||United States (USA)||44.63|
|6||Kévin Borlée||Belgium (BEL)||44.90|
|4||3||Jermaine Gonzales||Jamaica (JAM)||44.99|
|5||8||Jonathan Borlée||Belgium (BEL)||45.07|
|6||2||Rondell Bartholomew||Grenada (GRN)||45.45|
|7||7||Tabarie Henry||U.S. Virgin Islands (ISV)||45.55|
|8||1||Femi Seun Ogunode||Qatar (QAT)||45.55|
- 400 metres results at IAAF website