One of the biggest head-to-head clashes in athletics that the world is yet to see is between Sally Pearson and Brianna Rollins.
Pearson, the World and Olympic champion from Australia, was due to compete against US record-holder Rollins earlier this year in Monaco. But Rollins, the equal-third-fastest woman in history, withdrew from the Diamond League meeting and instead opted to compete in a low-key competition in Linz.
To heighten the excitement surrounding the duel, Pearson and Rollins produced the fastest times of the round in this morning’s 100m Hurdles heats.
Pearson, who made a delayed start to her season after overcoming an early-season injury, shot out of the blocks in the second heat and popped over each of the 10 hurdles, displaying her customary flawless technique.
She recorded a season’s best of 12.62 as Cindy Billaud was a stride or two behind in 12.71, the second-fastest clocking of career behind the 12.59 she ran to win the French title last month. Belgium’s Anna Zagre (12.94) and Russia’s Tatyana Dektyareva (13.04) took the other two automatic qualifying spots.
Rollins’ win in the fifth and final heat was similar to Pearson’s – great start, good technique over the barriers and a fast clocking. Her 12.55 was the fastest performance of the round and she won by more than half a second.
Lavonne Idlette of the Dominican Republic was second in 13.06, a few hundredths ahead of Jamaica’s Shermaine Williams (13.09) with Aleesha Barber of Trinidad and Tobago taking fourth in 13.33.
The first heat, somewhat surprisingly, was won by Canada’s Angela Whyte. Making a record-equalling sixth appearance in this event at the World Championships, the 33-year-old ran away from the field to win in 12.93.
USA’s Nia Ali – who clocked a big PB of 12.48 to take third at the US Championships – was never really in contention for the heat win and crossed the line in fourth in 13.19, finishing behind Italy’s Marzia Caravelli (13.07) and Germany’s Nadine Hildebrand (13.16).
Despite having the four fastest entrants for Moscow, US women only won two of the five heats. Aside from Rollins, Queen Harrison was the only other US winner, just dipping under 13 seconds to take the third heat in 12.95 from World indoor bronze medallist Alina Talay (12.99).
The other qualifying spots went to the fast-starting Danielle Williams of Jamaica in 13.11 and Canadian heptathlete Jessica Zelinka in 13.15.
USA’s Dawn Harper, the 2008 Olympic champion and 2012 Olympic silver medallist, was expected to win the fourth heat, but Britain’s Tiffany Porter exploded out of the blocks in lane one and was never headed, crossing the line first in 12.72.
Russian champion Yuliya Kondakova finished second in a PB of 12.76 with Harper-Nelson taking third in 12.84. Reina-Flor Okori grabbed the fourth automatic qualifying spot in 13.01.
Of the four non-automatic qualifying places, two of them went to Colombian athletes – Lina Florez and Brigitte Merlano. The other two were taken by Jamaica’s Andrea Bliss and Finland’s Nooralotta Neziri.
Pearson and Rollins have been drawn in different heats for tomorrow's semi-finals, so their long-awaited match up will have to wait until the final, held later in the evening tomorrow.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF