Setting up their eagerly anticipated showdown, defending indoor champion Maria Mutola and indoor world record holder Jolanda Ceplak won their respective semi-finals.
In the first race, Ceplak jumped to the immediate lead, and had a two-step lead on Jo Fenn and Seltana Ait Hammou after 200 metres. She extended her lead when she reached the halfway point in 59.33, when behind her, the jockeying for the two remaining spots began.
Tatyana Andrianova blasted into second place with 300 metres to go, with Fenn dropping to fourth. Spaniard Mayte Martinez, the defending bronze medallist, moved up to fourth at the bell, and seemed ready to make her move. But Fenn hold off the Martinez for the third spot. Ceplak won in 1:59.29, with Andrianova second in 1:59.96, then Fenn (2:00.79) and Martinez (2:01.06).
From the outset the second semi was considerably slower, and decidedly more tactical.
Olga Raspopova brought the field through the first 200 in 31.58, with US champion Jen Toomey moving into second 100m later, and into the lead at the bell. Mutola moved up to second and made a brief move for the lead down the back straight, but Toomey held her ground. With the top three positions all but assured, Toomey eased up in the homestretch, as did Mutola, who nonetheless passed her for the win in 2:03.19, with Toomey second in 2:03.40. Raspopova took the third spot in 2:03.71,nearly a second and a half ahead of the rest.
The final is tomorrow evening, where Mutola has her sights set on becoming the first-ever six time indoor champion.