With just the winners of the three heats guaranteed a place in Sunday’s final, and only three time qualifiers, there was little room for error for the leading contenders – and no luxury of easing the foot off the gas.
If that were not motivation enough for Angelika Cichocka in the opening heat, the roars of the home crowd had the 25-year-old Pole in turbo-charged mode. She needed to be in that elevated state to get the better of Anita Hinriksdottir.
The Icelandic world youth champion led to the bell and, as Cichocka proceeded to prevail in a world-leading 2:00.37, Hinriksdottir was celebrating second place in 2:01.03 which would have equalled the world indoor junior record had she not been disqualified for a lane violation, receiving news of the decision in the mixed zone while talking to the media.
Britain’s Laura Muir, who had to dig deep after being badly bumped on the opening lap, was promoted to runner-up but her 2:02.55 proved nowhere near quick enough to claim one of the non-automatic qualifying spots.
Ukraine’s Nataliia Lupu won the second heat in 2:00.65, with US champion Ajee Wilson – fourth in 2:02.90 – a notable non-qualifier.
Heat three was a tour de force for Selina Buchel. The 22-year-old Swiss runner judged her race to perfection, overtaking the USA’s Chanelle Price off the final bend to claim victory in 2:00.93, a lifetime best by 0.71.
Simon Turnbull for the IAAF