London: Grenada`s 18-year-old multi-junior champion Kirani James scorched a season-leading 44.61 seconds in winning the 400 metres at Friday`s Diamond League meeting in London in his first senior race as a professional athlete.
James has blazed a trail through the junior ranks, breaking Usain Bolt`s six-year old CARIFA Games 400m record two years ago and winning the world junior title last year en route to being named Grenada`s sportsman of the year at the age of 17.
He continued that form in the 2011 indoor season with a 44.80 run that placed him third on the all-time world list, behind only Michael Johnson and Kerron Clement.
The islander now looks ready to take on the best of the seniors outdoors at the world championships later this month after a hugely impressive showing in the final Diamond League meeting before Daegu.
Based at the University of Alabama in the United States and coached by former American Olympic sprint relay gold medallist Harvey Glance, James is already hugely experienced despite his tender years.
He broke 47 seconds at the age of 14, set world age records every year after that and has a bagful of golds over 200m and 400m from world and regional junior championships.
He came into Friday`s meeting with a best of 44.86 set earlier this year and ran a perfectly-judged race, forcing himself clear with a powerful last 40 metres to finish ahead of Jamaica`s Diamond League leader Jermain Gonzales.
"I`m feeling really good and this shows that I`m on course for Daegu," James said. "I need to go out there and run 400 metres races but there are a lot of great guys out there. I competed against them today and you can`t take anyone for granted.”
"I just went out there and tried to improve on my time and that`s what I did."
That time knocked compatriot Rondell Bartholomew off top spot for the season - he finished seventh on Friday - as the tiny Caribbean nation with a population of just 110,000 dreams of a first world outdoor or Olympic title.
If it was going to come anywhere, though, it was always likely to be over one lap after Alleyne Francique became something of a national hero when he won two world indoor titles and a Commonwealth Games silver over the distance in 2004 and 2006.