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Canadian teenager Christopher Morales Williams denied 400m indoor world record due to starting block issue

By George Ramsay, CNN

(CNN) — Canadian teenager Christopher Morales Williams’ blistering 400-meter performance will not be recognized as a world indoor record due to an issue with the starting blocks.

Morales Williams ran a winning time of 44.49 at the SEC Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas, on Saturday, 0.08 seconds faster that American Kerron Clement’s record from 2005 set on the same track.

But the US Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTCCCA) said that the time will be considered as an all-time world best, rather than an official record, due to the starting block issue.

In 2018, American Michael Norman ran an indoor 400-meter time of 44.52 which also couldn’t be ratified as a record.

A spokesperson for the University of Arkansas, which hosted last week’s SEC Indoor Championships, explained that starting blocks “need to be linked to a World Athletics-certified Start Information System” for world records to be ratified, but “head coaches from the SEC schools have voted not to use them.”

“The time by Christopher will be referred to as an all-time world best as well as a U.S. collegiate record,” the spokesperson added. “It may also be considered a Canadian national record, depending on the criteria Athletics Canada uses to verify a national record.”

After the race on Saturday, the 19-year-old Morales Williams said that he hadn’t anticipated that he would run faster than the world record time so early in his career.

“I put it up there as a goal but wasn’t really expecting to break it right now,” he told reporters.

His performance knocked 0.9 seconds off his previous best time and was more than a second faster than Jamaica’s Jevaughn Powell, who finished a place behind him in Saturday’s final.

But even more incredible was the fact that the University of Georgia sophomore had been unwell the morning before the race.

“I didn’t really feel all too well, I was throwing up,” he said in a post-race interview. “Actually, I was sick this morning. But I think that pushed me to try a bit harder. I just gave it [my] all and I kept going, kept going. And then I guess that’s always the result of it.”

Morales Williams won the Canadian national championships and a silver at the Pan American U20 championships last year. Prior to that, he was part of Canada’s silver medal team in the 4×400-meter relay at the World U20 Championships in 2022.

As a high school student in Ontario, he was praised for his focus and work ethic, even running up to 12 kilometers (about 7.5 miles) on his own – an unusually long distance for sprinters – when facilities were closed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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