It is hard to read too much into the heats of the men’s 400m Hurdles which saw 24 out of the 36 starters advance to Tuesday night’s semi-finals.
One thing seemed apparent, though: defending champion Dai Greene, who has battled with injury since before the London Olympic Games, is still struggling.
Greene was fifth across the line in the fifth and last heat of the first round. His time – 49.79 – was way outside his personal best, 47.84, and his season’s best of a modest (for him) 48.66. He was momentarily advanced to fourth, and an automatic spot in the semi-final round, by the disqualification of Eric Alejandro, but the Puerto Rican was later reinstated. Nevertheless, Greene's time was enough to see him through to the semi-finals.
London Olympic silver medallist Michael Tinsley, who has the two fastest performances in the world this year, one at the US Championships and one at the IAAF London Diamond League, ran the fastest time of the round in taking the first heat in 49.07.
Serbia’s Emir Bekric was second with 49.16, the second-fastest time of the round. The Daegu and London semi-finalist looked impressive, as did Russia’s 19-year-old European junior champion Timofey Chalyy, who was third in 49.33.
Cornel Fredericks of South Africa took the last automatic spot in the heat with 49.66, but ultimately Britain’s Sebastian Rodger and Australia’s Tristan Thomas progressed as two of the fastest non-automatic qualifiers.
Heat two saw Omar Cinseros of Cuba beat Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson, 49.87 to 49.91, but both were almost run down by Japan’s Takayuki Hashimoto who charged home on their inside to take third in 49.96. Frenchman Michael Francois took the final automatic spot in 50.02 with South Africa’s LJ van Zyl missing out.
If the World champion is in trouble, Athens 2004 and London 2012 Olympic champion Felix Sanchez continues to perform as he approaches his 36th birthday on 30 August. Sanchez took heat three in 49.20, third-fastest time of the round, with USA’s Kerron Clement, Jamaica’s Annsert Whyte and Britain’s European champion Rhys Williams taking the other qualifying places behind him.
Senegal’s Mamadou Kasse Hanne ran a personal best of 48.50 behind Jehue Gordon at the Monaco Diamond League meeting. He impressed again here, taking the fourth heat in 49.33 ahead of Jamaica’s London finalist Leford Green, 49.45, Helsinki 2005 World champion Bershawn Jackson, 49.76, and Jeffrey Gibson of the Bahamas, 50.25.
Former World junior champion Jehue Gordon of Trinidad took out the fifth and final heat in 49.52, with Jamaica’s Isa Phillips coming home hard to take second in 49.57.
Estonian record-holder Rasmus Magi took third in 49.63 ahead of the reinstated Alejandro in fourth with Greene in fifth, both given the same time of 49.79.
After battling knee and groin injuries, having surgery to repair a double hernia, and arriving here not having hurdled for three weeks due to a calf injury, whether Greene can find any more remains an interesting question.
Len Johnson for the IAAF