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Sprinter Steven Solomon Makes 400 Finals

Australian sprinter Steven Solomon qualified for the Olympic finals in the 400 meters.

Solomon, 19, finished third in his heat on Sunday in London, but his personal-best time of 44.97 was good enough to advance to Monday’s final. He was seventh among the eight qualifiers.

A day earlier Solomon, in his Olympics debut, won his heat to reach the semifinals in a time of 45.18, also a personal best. He defeated the defending Olympic champion Lashawn Merritt, who pulled up with a hamstring injury, and finished eighth fastest in the seven heats.

His previous best of 45.52 had come three weeks ago at the World Junior Championships in Barcelona. Based on the performance, Athletics Australia had selected Solomon, the captain of the junior soccer team at the 2009 Maccabiah Games, ahead of veteran John Steffensen, a black sprinter of South African descent who alleged racial discrimination. It sparked a bitter race row in which Solomon was unwittingly in the middle.

Ahead of Saturday’s race, Solomon’s father, Michael, urged caution amid the increasing hype surrounding his son.

“We need to keep things in perspective,” he told JTA via email. “Steven has been selected to run an individual 400m at the Olympic Games! This in itself is a massive achievement with only 54 runners in the world having this opportunity over the last four years. His progression to the semifinal will need a huge personal best effort.”

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