The 2007 World champion Christine Ohuruogu laid down a clear marker of her gold-medal intentions by blitzing to the fastest ever women’s 400m first-round time in World Championships history.
The Briton, who ran her fastest non-championship mark of 50.00 to win in London last month, is clearly in great shape and further illustrated her current form by winning heat two in a blistering 50.20.
Ohuruogu started positively and although she was three metres adrift of US champion Natasha Hastings rounding into the home stretch, she powered down the final 100m in trademark fashion to take the heat win and make a real statement.
Hastings secured second in a non-too-shabby 50.64. Marie Gayot of France took third in 51.83 and veteran 2001 World 400m champion Amy Mbacke Thiam of Senegal also secured a semi-final berth in fourth.
The main opposition to Ohuruogu is likely to the defending champion Amantle Montsho and she also advanced with the minimum of fuss following a comfortable victory in heat five.
Montsho of Botswana looked in total command from gun to tape, crossing the line in 50.75. Having posted a national record of 49.33 in Monaco last month, she looks in the mood to go much faster in the semi-finals.
Behind her, the 22-year-old Nigerian Regina George caught the eye to run 51.01 for second with Jamaica’s Patricia Hall third in 52.20.
Elsewhere, Russian spirits were lifted with a routine heat one victory by home favourite Antoninia Krivoshapka. The World No.2 set her stall out from the gun and rounded the final bend with a clear five-metre advantage. Down the home stretch she cruised home in a winning time of 51.27 to ease through into tomorrow’s afternoon’s semi-finals.
USA’s fast-finishing World junior champion Ashley Spencer surged into second in 51.48 and Kineke Alexander of St Vincent & the Grenadines was rewarded for an aggressive run, banking third in a season’s best 51.62.
The host nation also took the victory in heat four as world No.3 Kseniya Ryzhova ran impressively to dominate, stopping the clock in 50.71.
She held a commanding seven-metre lead coming into the home stretch and although the rest of the field were closing in the latter stages, the 26-year-old held on to register the win. Behind, the Jamaican champion Novlene Williams-Mills (50.83) – and the previous owner of the fastest ever first round 400m at a World Championships – snatched second from the tight lane two.
Joining the pair in the semi-finals are Ukraine’s former European indoor 400m silver medallist Natalya Pygyda (51.17) and Romanian teenager Bianca Razor (51.51).
Francena McCorory and Stephanie McPherson were expected to be the class of the field in heat three and so it proved. McCorory, who placed fourth in the 400m final at the 2011 World Championships, finished strongly to snatch the heat win in 50.56 from Jamaican sub-50 second performer McPherson (50.98). Italian record-holder Libania Grenot was third in 51.43.
Steve Landells for the IAAF