Sanya RichardsRoss is just one race away from the beginning of her return to the top of the women's 400m.
Indeed, with her dominating runs thus far the 27-year-old 2009 World champion outdoors Richards-Ross has shown that six years away from the indoor circuit hasn't affected her abilities 'on the boards' and tight curves. In her 50.99 run in the third of three semi-final heats, and at the front from from the gun, the U.S. record holder outdoors appeared every bit the World indoor champion in waiting. Certainly nobody here in Istanbul this weekend looks ready to give her a serious challenge in Saturday night's final.
""I have never run two 400m races on the same day in my life so I didn't know how my body would react," Richards-Ross said. "I now look forward to tomorrow."
Richards-Ross finished nearly a second ahead of runner-up Aleksandra Fedoriva (51.79), the European 200m champion who's improved to 51.18 this season, second fastest in the world this year behind the American. Besides another World title, Richards-Ross also has other ambitions.
"My goal is to break the American record, indoors and out. This is the perfect place to do it as I am sure it will be a fast race."
The U.S. indoor record is 50.54 set by Francena McCorory in Fayetteville in February 2010.
Patricia Hall of Jamaica was never in the hunt and was s distant third in 53.21.
While Richards-Ross' heat was the most dominating, the most thrilling for sheer unpredictability was the first, which ended in a near-blanket finish. Natasha Hastings (USA) and Vania Stambolova literally were inseparable, each credited with 51.87, pushing Nataliya Pyhyda (51.98) of Ukraine out of a spot in the final.
Shana Cox controlled much of the second heat before reaching the line in 52.69, just holding off Czech Denisa Rosolova, the 2010 European champion in the event, who timed her homestretch kick perfectly to finish second in 52.78 to knock Jamaican Dominique Blake out of a place in the final.
"This is really a great result for me because I managed to beat many girls who have better PBs or SBs than me," said Rosolova. "Now I am going to get really a good sleep tonight to get some energy for tomorrow."
Of note was Swede Moa Hjelmer's fourth place finish in heat one in 52.29, a performance that eclipsed a national record that was set in 1986, more than four years before she was born.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF