06 MAR 2004 General News With an easy victory in her semi

Women 400m Semi-Finals

With an easy victory in her semifinal, world leader Natalya Nazarova seemed up-to-task to become the first to ever successfully defend their title in the 400 metres.

The Russian had a three metre lead at the bell, a gap she marginally increased before reaching the line in 50.91.  Fani Halkia, the Greek national record holder in the 400m hurdles, followed Nazarova's pace from the bell, and never faltered, finishing in 51.68, another national indoor record for the 25-year-old.  US champion Julian Clay finished third in a personal best 52.35, holding off Briton Catherine Murphy (52.59) to earn her first spot in an international final. Murphy, fourth in Birmingham last year, left the track clutching her right thigh.

In the first semi, Bahamian Tonnique Williams moved to the front just beyond the half way point, but was headed down the homestretch by Olesya Krasnomovets, whose 51.53 win signalled the strong possibility of a Russian 1-2 sweep.  1999 200m champion Ionela Tirlea, Romania's strongest medal hope, was third in 51.95, holding off Svetlana Usovich (52.21).

The final is this evening.