Having finished fourth and out of the medals at the past three global championships, Jamaica’s Kaliese Spencer was hoping that her luck would change.
For a brief moment it looked as though it would as she cruised through her first-round heat, stopping the clock in 54.10, her fastest time of the year by a long way. Or at least it would have been, had she not been disqualified for a tail-leg violation. An appeal from the Jamaican team was later rejected.
But Spencer wasn’t the only athlete in the first heat to suffer some misfortune. USA’s Georganne Moline, an Olympic finalist last year, hit the seventh hurdle and crashed to the ground. She got back up and finished the race, but crossed the line in last place with 59.05.
The two dramatic exits left European silver medallist Denise Rosolova as the official winner of heat one, clocking 55.44 to finish just one hundredth ahead of Britain’s Meghan Beesley with Vania Stambolova of Bulgaria a stride behind in third with 55.91.
Spencer’s absence makes world leader Zuzana Hejnova’s task even easier than before, and the Czech record-holder easily won the second heat, jogging the final 30 metres and crossing the line in 55.25. Ukraine’s Hanna Titimets took second in 55.50 from Jamaica’s Nickiesha Wilson, 55.75. USA’s Christine Spence faded in the second half after going out hard, but her 55.96 was enough to get through to the semi-finals as a non-automatic qualifier.
Britain’s Perri Shakes-Drayton was drawn against the reigning Olympic champion Natalya Antyukh of Russia and defending World champion Lashinda Demus of the USA, but she ran unfazed to win the third heat in 54.42, the fastest time of the day.
Demus was half a second behind in 54.94 with Antyukh third in 55.29. Both Lauren Boden and Ristananna Tracey advanced on time.
The fourth and final heat was won by US champion Dalilah Muhammad. She was level with Britain’s Eilidh Child for much of the way but edged ahead to win in 54.90 from Child’s 55.17. Russia’s European champion Irina Davydova took the third automatic qualifying spot in 55.45, but fourth-place finisher Hanna Yaroshchuk of Ukraine also made it through.
A challenge from Spencer would have made the event more exciting, but currently the top two medal contenders appear relatively safe. Tomorrow’s semi-finals may have more surprises in store.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF