Sunday’s final is assured of being one of the day’s top events after the advancement of six runners with strong credentials.
Stephanie Graf of Austria, the silver medallist from Lisbon, broke away from an obstructed position against the curb midway through her heat to lead all qualifiers with a 1:59.75 time.
The European outdoor silver medallist, Mayte Martínez of Spain (1:59.82 NR) and Joanne Fenn of Great Britain (1:59.83) followed Graf closely into the finish for the other two positions. The first three runners clearly separated themselves from fourth placer Agnes Samaria of Namibia (2:01.29).
The defending champion, Maria Mutola, won the other section in 1:59.99, with Jolanda Ceplak of Slovenia, the World indoor Record holder, right behind at 2:00.14.
A gritty struggle for the final spot was won by Russian champion Yekaterina Puzanova (2:00.73) ahead of Canadian Diane Cummins (2:00.94).