(L-R) Jeff Porter of the United States, Dayron Robles of Cuba and Lehann Fourie of South Africa compete in the Men's 110m Hurdles Semifinals on Day 12 of the London 2012 Olympic Games on 8 August 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
US champion Aries Merritt who ran a world season’s best time 12.93 no fewer than three times this summer, looks on course to improve on his personal best time which stands "only" 6 hundredths of a second off Robles’ 12.87.
A tremendous effort in which he literally obliterated the rest of the field, Merritt clocked the fastest ever semi-final time in the history of the Olympic Games, his 12.94 also being his fourth sub-13 seconds in six races – including heats.
Running with the slightest of tail winds at 0.1m/s, Merritt was also fastest out of the blocks in a race that was just a formality for the American who also won the World Indoor title earlier this year.
In his wake, 2009 World champion Ryan Brathwaite ran his fastest time in three years to secure the second automatic qualifier at 13.23 with Xie Wenjun in third setting a personal best 13.34 but unfortunately the Chinese will not make the cut by time.
The first semi-final heat also saw a very impressive win by World champion Jason Richardson whose run was certainly worth a sub-13 clock had the Los Angeles-based not shut down completely in the run-in.
A beaming look of confidence on his face, Richardson advanced easily with 13.13 with Cuban national champion Orlando Ortega taking second at 13.26.
22-year-old Lawrence Clarke will be the first British man to take part in a 110m Hurdles Olympic final since former World record holder Colin Jackson in 2000, his 13.31 personal best effort in third securing the last qualifying spot by time.
In the third semi-final Robles ran brilliantly to take the win in 13.10 but one must admit that he didn’t look as smooth as his American rivals. Robles who is coming back from injury only competed three times before the London Olympics and lost twice but a good heat yesterday and a confidence-boosting semi-final this afternoon should warm him up perfectly for the challenge he will face in a couple of hours.
In second, 22-year-old Hansle Parchment improved the Jamaican national record to 13.14 chasing Robles to the wire as Lehann Fourie out-dipped Emanuele Abate to claim third in 13.28 and also secure a lane in the final. The Italian record holder finished fourth but his 13.35 did not make the cut.
European champion Sergey Shubenkov looked poised to take second place behind Robles but hitting three hurdles in succession made him lose precious ground and he was relegated to sixth in 13.41, the same time awarded to Jeff Porter of the US for fifth.
If the weather holds, conditions could be ideal for a very fast final in which Richardson has been drawn in lane 4, Robles in 5 and Merritt in 6.
Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF
2006 Evergreen Mutola