Brenes, country’s best hope, fails to qualify at Olympics

Costa Rica’s greatest track and field hope, Nery Brenes, frailed to qualify today in the preliminary round of the men’s 400 meter race at the Olympic Games. Brenes finished less than half a second behind the third place finisher, who qualified for an additional round.

The population of Costa Rica is pinning its hopes on sprinter Nery Brenes at the Olympics this weekend. He is the nation’s best chance at bringing home the first Costa Rican track and field medal in history.

The 26 year old from Limón took home a gold medal in the 400-meter sprint at this year’s world indoor championships in Istanbul, Turkey.

However, he still faces stiff competition from other athletes like 19-year-old Kirani James from Grenada who won the world 400-meter championship last and LaShawn Merritt, the 26 year old who took gold in the 400-meter race at the 2008 Olympics. Both have personal bests faster than that of Brenes.

“What emotion… But we have to keep focused,” Brenes said on a Facebook account.

Brenes has started running more than a decade ago, and he competed in his first national competition in 2002 in Nicoya when he was 16.

He made his debut at the world championships in Helsinki, Finland, in 2005 where he was eliminated in the preliminaries and took 38th place, but he quickly began in climb in the next few years and went to the Olympics in 2008.

“The 2010 season was the best of my life,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “During the year I had 14 races, in 12 of them I was on the podium, nine times with the gold medal.”

Although he had a rough start when he was eliminated in the semi-finals in the 2011 world championships in Daegu, South Korea, he came back to run his personal best at the Pan American Games last October and won the world championship this year.

The Olympic 400-meter competition will take place this weekend in three parts over three days. The first heat is at 3:35 a.m.. local time Saturday. If Brenes goes on from there, he will run in the semifinal at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. The final race will be on Monday at 1:40 p.m.

In addition to Brenes, three other Ticos will compete this weekend: Sharolyn Scott will run in the first heat of the 400-meter hurdles at noon Sunday, and Gabriela Traña will run the women’s marathon at 4 a.m. Sunday

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