MOSCOW (AP) — For some of the 400-meter sprinters at the world championships, the topic of Oscar Pistorius remains either taboo or simply not worth tackling.

And yet for Olympic champion Kirani James, there's almost a sense of disappointment that Pistorius wasn't present for the event's opening round on Sunday. The South African double-amputee won't compete as he prepares for his murder trial.

A year ago in London, the "Blade Runner" was one of the faces of the Olympics as Pistorius enthralled the capacity crowds not so much with his performances, but through his perseverance.

James even swapped nametags with Pistorius at the London Games, just to have a keepsake. The defending world champion from Grenada recently ran across Pistorius' detachable jersey number while moving into a new apartment and intends to frame it.

"For him not to be here, it's something the sport is missing," said James, who had the second-fastest time in qualifying. "I've always seen him as an inspiration for not just sports but life — in terms of no matter where you're from or what disability you have, whether it's physical or mental, you can still do something you love and be good and proud of doing it.

"He has a very special situation. I'll be praying for him."

Pistorius is charged with premeditated murder in the Valentine Day's shooting death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. He will return to court on Aug. 19 — six days after the 400 final at worlds.

If convicted, Pistorius could be looking at a life sentence in prison, with a minimum of 25 years.

Pistorius has dropped out of all competitions this year to focus on his trial. He denies the murder charge, saying he thought Steenkamp was an intruder.

South African sprinter Wayde van Niekerk — an up-and-coming 400 runner — said he couldn't talk about the Pistorius ordeal.

"I don't know what's happening," he said after failing to advance.

Asked if Pistorius dropped him a text or reached out to him in any way, to wish him luck before the race, Van Niekerk said: "I don't know Oscar on a personal basis."

LaShawn Merritt sidestepped the subject of Pistorius, too, saying he preferred to keep his focus on the track and not who's taking the starting line.

"I don't really pay a lot of people attention," said Merritt, who had the top time in qualifying. "It's an individual sport. I go out and do my thing, because I'm the one trying to win. I'm the one who put the work in. I'm the one who has to race. It's all about me, in my mind."


CAIN-DO ATTITUDE: Near the back of the pack late in the opening heat of the 1,500, American teenager Mary Cain made her move and wound up sixth, which was just good enough to advance.

"It was pretty hard," Cain said as she quickly made an exit after her race. "We went out pretty fast."

At 17 years old, Cain is attempting to become the youngest woman to medal in the 1,500.


BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: A late arrival to Moscow, American middle-distance specialist Sarah Brown hit the ground running.

Brown found out Thursday that Treniere Moser was out with an injury and if she could get to Russia in time, there was a spot for her in the 1,500. Brown was in Falmouth, Mass., for a race and quickly headed to New York to obtain her visa.

After that, it was straight to the airport to catch a flight, arriving the day before the competition. She finished eighth in her heat, but advanced to the next round based on time.

"This is an opportunity of a lifetime for me," Brown said. "I'm super excited."


ENGLISH LESSON: English Gardner insisted she wasn't trying to run all that fast in the opening round of the 100 meters.

And yet the American was the only sprinter in the field to finish under 11 seconds, running 10.94 on a humid day.

"I finally feel like my legs are back," said Gardner, who won the 100 at nationals. "The lion got let out of the cage and I just went out there and had some fun."

The former Oregon star will be one of the favorites for the final on Monday, along with Jamaica's Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and defending champion Carmelita Jeter. Fraser-Pryce won her heat while Jeter, who had her right leg taped up, finished second in her race.

"I've got to build into this right now," Jeter said. "I'm going to try to stay positive."


AROUND THE TRACK: Engrossed in a good book, 110-meter hurdler Ryan Wilson couldn't wait to return to the hotel and pick it up again after his qualifying heat. Wilson is reading "A Dance with Dragons," by George R.R. Martin. "I'm a slow reader. My mind just drifts," said Wilson, who won his race. "But it's pretty amazing." ... Olympic gold medalist Aries Merritt, defending champion Jason Richardson and the season's fastest man, David Oliver, all won their heats in the hurdles. The Americans could possibly go 1-2-3-4 in the event. "I don't care what it is; I just have to be on top of that podium," Oliver said. "That's the main focus for myself."