Osaka, Japan -- The distance runners hate Osaka's oppressive heat and humidity. Just ask all those marathoners who endured brutal conditions yesterday morning.
But Baltimore sprinter James Carter is learning to love the stifling weather at the track and field world championships.
"I definitely like it," said the 29-year-old former Mervo and Hampton University star after breezing through an opening-round trial of the 400-meter hurdles in 49.52 seconds at Nagai Stadium last night. "It helps my warm-up. It helps me get ready a whole lot faster. It's a benefit."
Carter expended as little energy as he needed to in winning the second of five sections. Twenty-four runners advanced to tonight's three semifinals, which will send eight men into the Tuesday night final.
Carter's philosophy - "the slower you run tonight [and still advance], the faster you'll be able to run in the final" - might help him earn the winner's paycheck of $60,000.
He came to Osaka with the world's fastest time this year, 47.72, and thinks he's ready to run a whole lot faster.
"I love this track," said Carter, who ran his best time (47.49) in 2005 and ranks 12th all-time in the event. "I ran here in May and know how fast it can be.
"The final will definitely be in the 47s, and I think I'll be ready to run a [personal record]. I've been stuck there [47.49] too long now."
Three other Americans joined Carter in the semifinals - 2005 world champion Bershawn Jackson (48.87), Kerron Clement (49.07) and Derrick Williams (49.65.) Looming as a major threat, though, is 2004 Olympic champion Felix Sanchez, the American-reared Southern California graduate who represents the Dominican Republic.
Sanchez ran a 48.70 and pronounced himself free of all the leg troubles he has endured since his Olympic triumph, his nation's first and only at the Games.
"I'm back, totally healthy," Sanchez said. "I was ready early in the season, but it was all in my head. I had a good technical race tonight. I beat Bershawn, so that was a big confidence boost."