By G9ija

Steven Gardiner became the first man to win an individual Olympic gold for the Bahamas on Wednesday, powering to victory in the 400m to leave the Caribbean nation on the brink of a rare double.

The 25-year-old 2019 world champion stormed to the line in 43.85sec, with Colombia’s Anthony Jose Zambrano taking silver in 44.08sec.

Grenada’s Kirani James, the 2012 champion and 2016 silver medallist, took bronze in 44.19sec.

Gardiner’s victory extended his dominance of the one-lap event over the past four years.

The Bahamian hasn’t lost a 400m race that he has completed since taking a silver medal behind South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk at the 2017 World Championships.

Leaving aside three races where he did not finish due to injury, Gardiner has been unbeaten in 20 of 23 starts since that 2017 loss.

Gardiner’s victory raises the prospect of an Olympic double for Bahamas at the 400m in Tokyo with 2016 gold medallist Shaunae Miller-Uibo running in the women’s final on Friday.

Gold medal winner Steven Gardiner of Team Bahamas (L) and bronze medal winner Kirani James of Team Grenada celebrate after the men’s 400m final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 5, 2021. (Photo by Matthias Hangst / POOL / AFP)

Although female athletes from Bahamas have won individual Olympic gold medals on three occasions before, Gardiner is the first man from the islands to win solo gold.

“It’s just amazing, surreal for the country,” Gardiner said. “For myself, for me to be the one to be able to do it I’m just so happy.

“It’s unreal. I don’t think I’ll sleep tonight and it will only sink in at the medal ceremony.

“I will be here to watch Shaunae tomorrow night. I just want her to do what she did in 2016 so we can bring back double gold medals for the Bahamas.”

Gardiner’s gold medal was never really in doubt as he waited patiently before surging smoothly into the lead off the final bend.

Once in front there was only going to be one winner and Gardiner, who failed to even make the final at Rio five years ago, motored home in his fastest time of 2021.

“It feels amazing. 2016 it was my first Olympic Games and it didn’t end so well, I didn’t even make the final,” Gardiner said.

“But here in Tokyo I think I did what needed to be done. I was so excited just to make the final.

“And tonight I’m the Olympic champion in the 400m.”

Bahamas’ Steven Gardiner celebrates after winning the men’s 400m final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 5, 2021. (Photo by Jewel SAMAD / AFP)

But as Gardiner celebrated, there was disappointment for US hope Michael Norman, who set off quickly before fading down the home stretch and eventually finishing in fifth behind fourth-placed compatriot Michael Cherry.

It continued a disappointing Olympic campaign for USA’s male track athletes who have failed to win a gold so far in Tokyo.

Cherry suggested USA Track and Field’s decision to cancel a pre-Olympic training camp in Japan due to concerns about Covid-19 could have played a factor in the medal shutout.

Bahamas’ Steven Gardiner crosses the finish line to win the men’s 400m final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 5, 2021. (Photo by Jewel SAMAD / AFP)

“We haven’t been here that long, we got here on short notice,” Cherry said. “Every other team had training camp, but that’s no excuse.

“We are still expected to come out here and execute how we are supposed to, it’s just not happening right now.”