If a few clues were gleaned as to the potential medal outcome in the first round heats this morning, the semi-finals definitively answered a few more questions.
It would appear that the three semi-final victors will start the medal favourites with the trio all offering a compelling case for gold. Allyson Felix, the Olympic champion and a three-time winner of this title has all the experience and pedigree required. Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the Olympic silver medallist the hunger to land the sprint double having struck 100m gold on Monday. Murielle Ahouré of Ivory Coast the belief that she can now mix it with the world’s best after winning World 100m silver three days earlier.
The major casualty was Kimberlyn Duncan, who back in June had the audacity to defeat Felix at the US championships. Yet since that wind-assisted 21.80 performance she has struggled to back that up on the European circuit, so perhaps her elimination was not so much of a surprise.
In the first heat Jeneba Tarmoh of the USA from the outside lane nine was prominent with Ahouré also cutting a swathe through the field.
Off the bend it was Tarmoh leading from Ahoure with Jamaica’s Anneisha McLaughlan a little way back. Yet when the race reached the final quarter it was the powerhouse Ahouré who had taken control and she flashed across the line in 22.46.
Behind, Bahamian teenager Shaunae Miller finished with a wet sail to grab the second automatic spot in 22.64 and become the youngest women’s 200m finalist in World Championship history.
McLaughlin’s hopes were extinguished 40m from the finish as she sharply pulled up a leg injury allowing Tarmoh to take third in 22.70.
Heat two was expected to be dominated by the Olympic champion Allyson Felix and World No.4 Blessing Okagbare and so it proved. From the gun the pair - running in adjacent lanes three and four, respectively - were prominent and rounding the turn it was the Nigerian who held a marginal advantage from the American sprinter - an eight-time World champion.
It was Felix, though, that slowly edged ahead and for the final 70m a stride separated the pair all the way to the finish line. The three-time World champion clocking 22.30 with Okagbare 0.09 further back.
A proverbial country mile separated the pair to the rest. Duncan finished strongly to place third in 22.91 – 0.08 clear of the Ukraine’s European silver medallist Hrystyna Stuy, who was fourth. But neither athlete came closer to either of the two next fastest positions and will play no part in the final.
In the final heat Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce made her characteristic blistering start and by 50m had already gained the stagger up Mariya Ryemyen on her outside. ChaRonda Williams was also running strongly as was Myriam Soumaré, the former European champion of France.
Coming off the bend Fraser-Pryce kicked ahead and could even afford to visibly turn off the throttle midway down the home straight to cruise to the semi-final win in 22.54.
The real drama happened behind as Ryemyen, the European champion, moved quickly through the pack to snatch second in 22.70. A fading Williams just held on to third by 0.01 in 22.80 from the World Junior champion Anthonique Strachan of Bahamas who just attacked a little too late. Soumaré paid the price for her early pace to finish fifth in 22.85.
When all three heats were assessed it was the US duo Tarmoh and Williams who had secured the next two fastest positions to assume their place in the final.
Steve Landells for the IAAF