For a brief moment during the first morning session of the 2014 IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot, it looked as though two-time world indoor champion Blanka Vlasic would not make it into the high jump final.
The automatic qualifying height was 1.95m and seven women had cleared it by the time the Croatian took to the floor for her final attempt.
Vlasic missed for a third time, putting her in a vulnerable position. But fortunately for the 2007 and 2009 world champion, no one else joined the automatic qualifiers so she squeaked through to the final.
Spain’s Ruth Beitia, competing at her eighth World Indoor Championships, qualified for her seventh world indoor final with a perfect record up to and including 1.95m to lead the qualifying round.
Good day at the office for the Eatons
Husband-and-wife duo Ashton Eaton and Brianne Theisen-Eaton are off to a great start in the combined events.
In the heptathlon, Eaton equalled his PB of 6.66 in the 60m and followed it with the best long jump of the day, 7.78m. It puts him just 48 points shy of his own world record pace from Istanbul two years ago.
Theisen-Eaton won the pentathlon 60m hurdles with a PB of 8.13 and then cleared a season’s best of 1.84m in the high jump.
But after Nadine Broersen broke the Dutch indoor high jump record with 1.93m, Theisen-Eaton moved down to second place.
Broersen maintained her lead after the shot put, her 14.59m mark bumping her score up to 3035. USA’s world leader Sharon Day-Monroe moved up the standings after her 14.95m effort. Her three-event total of 2919 puts her just five points ahead of Theisen-Eaton.
But the Eatons aren’t the only couple competing in the combined events in Sopot. World champion Hannah Melnychenko, currently sixth in the pentathlon, and fellow Ukrainian Oleksiy Kasyanov, second after two events of the heptathlon, are also competing simultaneously.
Excitement in 800m heats
With just three heats in the first rounds of the men’s and women’s 800m, this morning’s races effectively became brutal semi-finals with just the winner qualifying by right, followed by three time qualifiers.
Nevertheless, there were few surprises in the men’s event as defending champion Mohammed Aman won the first heat with ease. South Africa’s Andre Olivier took the second heat in 1:46.18, while two-time European indoor champion Adam Kszczot won the final one in 1:45.76, the second-fastest 800m heat time in the history of the IAAF World Indoor Championships.
Bronze medallist two years ago, Andrew Osagie was the fastest of the non-automatic qualifiers with 1:45.88, while Poland’s Marcin Lewandowski also squeaked through to the final.
The women’s 800m was somewhat more eventful. Poland’s gold medal hope Angelika Cichocka won the first heat in a world-leading 2:00.37 and she was followed over the line by Iceland’s Anita Hinriksdottir, who equalled the world junior indoor record of 2:01.03.
Or at least, she thought she had. Just moments later the teenager learnt that she had been disqualified for a lane violation. Despite a protest, the result stood.
European indoor champion Nataliia Lupu won the following heat in 2:00.65, but USA’s Ajee Wilson, who led the 2014 world lists coming into Sopot, finished down in fourth to miss out on a qualifying spot.
But the biggest surprise of the round was Switzerland’s Selina Buchel, who set an outright PB of 2:00.93 to win the third and final heat.
Chris Brown, now 35, produced the second-fastest indoor clocking of his life to lead the men’s 400m heats. His 45.84 is the second-fastest heat time ever at the World Indoors and faster than his winning performance in Doha four years ago.
All of the other genuine contenders advanced with relative ease as European champion Pavel Maslak clocked 46.01 and Lalonde Gordon ran 46.07.
The women’s 400m was also a straight-forward affair with Nigeria’s Regina George being the only athlete to run faster than 52 seconds. Her 51.60 clocking in the first heat was exactly half a second quicker than the next best qualifier, Shaunae Miller of The Bahamas.
Both US sprinters, Francena McCorory and Joanna Atkins, as well as Jamaican duo Kaliese Spencer and Patricia Hall advanced to the next round.
Easy morning stroll for Dibaba
For much of her 3000m heat, world record-holder Genzebe Dibaba was happy to stay at the back of the pack and out of trouble. The Ethiopian only stretched her legs on the final few laps as she opened up a comfortable gap before crossing the line in 8:57.86.
In a round where 12 of the 15 entrants progressed to the final, there were no real surprises as all the main contenders advanced. The second heat was won by two-time world 1500m champion Maryam Yusuf Jamal, closely followed by defending champion Hellen Obiri, 8:53.07 to 8:53.31.
Storl, Whiting and Majewski safely through to shot final
Defending champion Ryan Whiting and two-time world champion David Storl were the best athletes on show in the men’s shot put qualifying.
Whiting, who recently won the US indoor title with a world-leading 22.23m, was the first to hit the automatic qualifying mark with 20.75m on his first attempt, guaranteeing his spot in tonight’s final.
Storl needed all three tries to advance by right, but nailed it on his final effort with 21.24m. Argentina’s German Lauro was the only other automatic qualifier with his 20.73m, while two-time Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski was the best of the rest with 20.60m.
In the first round of the men’s 1500m, the heats got quicker and quicker with each race as athletes tried to give themselves the best possible chance of qualifying.
Germany’s Homiyu Tesfaye won the first heat in 3:47.07, and then world 800m bronze medallist Ayanleh Souleiman took the second heat in 3:38.94 with New Zealand’s Nick Willis just 0.2 behind.
The third and final heat was quicker still as Ethiopia’s Aman Wote won by more than a second in 3:36.75 from defending champion Adbalaati Iguider.
USA’s Will Leer and Kenya’s Bethwell Birgen were the fastest of the time qualifiers, but Birgen’s team-mate Silas Kiplagat failed to make it through.
Just five women surpassed the 14-metre mark in the qualifying round of the women’s triple jump, and just two of those hit the automatic qualifier of 14.30m.
Jamaica’s Kimberly Williams produced the best mark of the day with 14.35m, followed by 2011 world champion Olha Saladuha.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF