2 September 2011Daegu, Korea - Australia's Sally Pearson sent out a very positive message when producing a lightning display in the heats of the 100m Hurdles confirming pre-Championship forecast's she will be the woman to beat.
Pearson who has won her last 14 competitions including four on the highly competitive Samsung Diamond League circuit where she is overall leader, clocked a very fast time of 12.53 into slight headwind (-0.6m/s).
Only the 24-year-old Olympic silver medallist plus the American duo of Kellie Wells and Danielle Carruthers have run quicker than that mark this summer, a clear indication of the form Pearson has fetched to Daegu 2011.
Her flying display left former World Indoor 60 Hurdles title holder Derval O'Rourke virtually for dead and the Irishwoman now getting back to decent form after a couple of injury ravaged years finished in 13.07. The two other automatic qualifiers in the second heat were Brigitte Merlano of Colombia and Austria's Beate Schrott.
But all eyes were on the Aussie record holder and World leader with a time of 12.48 five weeks ago on the SDL Birmingham leg and who came into the last Championships in Berlin as the likely gold medallist but was competing with an injury.
Pearson nursing what was later diagnosed as a torn disc in her lower back, battled through the two tough qualifying rounds but by the final was a spent force and placed fifth.
Now she intends putting the record straight in a contest where Wells and Carruthers are expected to be her main rivals although their team-mate Dawn Harper, Great Britain's - American born - Tiffany Porter, could get themselves involved in the medal mix.
Wells was first in action and she made light work of qualifying although rattling the last hurdle in a time of 12.73 with the only real challenge coming from 35-year-old 2008 Olympic semi-finalist Vonette Dixon and sixth in Berlin.
The Jamaican was followed home by Nikkita Holder from Canada who lowered her personal best by 0.01 to 12.90 and Natalya Ivoninskaya of Kazakhstan.
Heat three belonged to Porter and although pressurised by Colombia's Lina Florez just inside her in lane one, she came through in the late stages to win by 0.14 in 12.84 with Tatyna Dektyareva of Russia and Switzerland's Lisa Urech making the semi-final cut.
Carruthers who at one stage of her career was coached by three-time World champion Gail Devers, also looked sharp when progressing in a time of 12.79 from Canada's Phylicia George (12.84). Czech Lucie Skrobakova and Jamaica's defending champion Brigitte Foster-Hylton who posted season's bests of 12.89 and 12.96 followed them home.
Harper seventh two years ago fought a tight battle with Perdita Felicien the 2003 gold medallist and runner up four years ago in Osaka, before stretching ahead of the Canadian by 0.06 in 12.89. China's Yawei Sun and Sandra Gomis of France also made the semi-finals.
Lauren Lee and David Martin for the IAAF
- Sally Pearson posts the fastest time in the 100m Hurdles heats (Getty Images) © Copyright