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"RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The quality is so high in the 400 meters right now that Kirani James really isn't comfortable with his defending Olympic champion tag. Johnson's Olympic record of 43.49 from Atlanta '96 is definitely in the firing line in Brazil. Record or no, what you are going to get at the Olympic Stadium is three runners that will take each other, and the rest of the field, to the edge. At the world championships last year, the South African Van Niekerk put a wedge in the rivalry between Grenada's James and American Merritt, who shared the previous five major titles. To do it, Van Niekerk had to run himself into the ground, collapsing on the Beijing track in exhaustion after winning in 43.48 seconds to make him the fourth-fastest 400-meter runner ever. If you're looking for a way to separate the three, Merritt, the oldest at 30 and the 2008 Olympic champion, had the world lead of 43.97 seconds coming in to Rio. With James, who is 23, his", www.sfchronicle.com
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