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Kirani James congratulates LaShawn Merritt on his victory in the Men's 400m Final (Getty Images)

Kirani James congratulates LaShawn Merritt on his victory in the Men’s 400m Final (Getty Images)

by Michael Bascombe

Coverage courtesy “LIME-Value Every Moment”

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, August 22, 2013 – World 400 metres champion LaShawn Merritt has described the former champion Kirani James as a great competitor and expects him to be back for the title.

Merritt, who regained the world title in Moscow, last week, is anticipating a competitive match-up when next they clash over the one-lap event.

“He’s a great guy, a great competitor and I know he will come back running strong,” said Merritt.

The American champion was speaking after winning the 400m in an unchallenged 44.69 seconds at the Diamond League Meeting in Stockholm on Thursday, and a week after he regained the world title he lost to James in Daegu in 2011. In Moscow, Merritt blew away the field including James to win in a world leading 43.74.

“A lot of hard work I put in and I let that be my confidence, so I was very confident going in,” said Merritt.

Asked about the focus on James as a competitor when it comes to major championships, Merritt brushed aside this as an issue.

“It’s not even a single focus on anybody. It was proven just in Moscow (World Championships) that eight men are lined up, eight grown men will go at it, so nobody has won or get second or third as yet,” he said.

Merritt admits that his victory may have raised the confidence level of some competitors and expect the challenge to be intriguing from now on.

“I don’t know if I broke some people but I could have given some people some confidence. I don’t know what others are really thinking. My thing is to just go and execute and focus on myself and used the speed that I know I have and the strength that I know I have.”

James reportedly wasn’t feeling well on the day of the final but decided to compete. “He had an upset stomach…but he made no excuses and went out and tried,” an official told GrenadaSports.

The Olympic champion will have no excuses next Thursday when he comes up against the new world champion in the final race of the Diamond League Meeting in Zurich, Switzerland.

It’s a competitive field which includes Olympic silver medallist Luguelín Santos of the Dominican Republic and Pavel Maslák of the Czech Republic.

“Come Diamond League, people will line up again and we will go at it again. Nobody has won yet, so we will go at it and it will be good,” said Merritt.

James leads the standings with 14 points, two ahead of Merritt. The points will be doubled and the athlete with the highest number of points being declared the Diamond Race winner.

This comes with a cash prize and bragging rights of being the World Number One ranked quarter-miler.

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