Adam Gemili, the reigning World junior champion in the 100m, underlined the soundness of his decision to focus on the 200m at these World Championships when he ran the first sub-20 second time of his life in the semi-finals on Friday night.
What a day for Gemili, who does not turn 20 until 6 October. He arrived at the Luzhniki Stadium for Friday morning’s heats with a personal best of 20.30. That came down to 20.17 as he shared fastest time in the heats with South Africa’s Anaso Jobodwana.
A few hours later, Gemili was a sub-20 man, winning the third semi-final in 19.98, just 0.11 outside the British best set by John Regis in Stuttgart 20 years ago, a month before Gemili was born. Gemili’s time, the fastest by a Briton since 1994, was also the fastest ever performance by a European teenager.
But his 19.98 was not fastest time of the round this time. That honour went to Curtis Mitchell of the USA who won the first semi in a personal best 19.97, drawing clear of Olympic bronze medallist Warren Weir of Jamaica over the final few strides.
The slowest of the three semi-finals was won by the defending champion and World record-holder Usain Bolt. The Jamaican shut down a long way short of the line to hold off Jobodwana, 20.12 to 20.13.
No doubt, Bolt has a lot more in reserve. His world lead – 19.73 at the Paris IAAF Diamond League meeting – is more than 0.2 faster than anyone ran tonight, his Olympic gold medal time last year more than six metres ahead and his World record almost eight metres better.
Bolt can go faster. The question for tomorrow night’s final is whether anyone else can, and maybe a lot faster than they ever have before.
The semis were run in a cool 21°C temperature and mostly still conditions (two had 0.0m/s wind readings, the third a -0.3m/s).
Mitchell impressed in the first heat, himself included. He let out a yell when he glanced across at the infield clock which had stopped at 19.98. His time was then rounded down to 19.97, an improvement of 0.02 on his previous best set at the US Championships.
More impressive than the time, however, was the manner in which he pulled clear of Weir. Even if he eased slightly when clearly beaten, Weir was more than two metres back in 20.20 with Jaysuma Saidy Ndure of Norway third in 20.33. He was one of the fortunate two to advance to the final as non-automatic qualifiers.
Jobodwana, the World University Games sprint double champion last month, closed on Bolt in the second semi as the Jamaican eased right down at the line. His 20.13 was not enough to catch him, but it did equal his personal best.
Isiah Young of the USA finished third in 20.36, which ultimately was not good enough to take him to the final.
Gemili was strong over the final 50 metres again in taking the third semi in 19.98. In this form, Regis’s national record could well fall to him in the final, or before the year is out.
Nickel Ashmeade was second in 20.00, giving Jamaica three men in the final, while reigning European champion Churandy Martina of the Netherlands was safely through in third place in 20.13 as the fastest of the two non-automatic qualifiers.
Len Johnson for the IAAF