Asian record-holder Oluwakemi Adekoya was the fastest woman in the 400m heats, winning the first of four races in a well-controlled fashion but still clocking 52.27.
The Bahraini athlete stayed just two metres off the exuberant pace set by Zambia’s Kabange Mupopo, the latter hitting the curb first on the home straight of the first leg and going through 200m in 24.35.
Mupopo held the lead until coming off the final bend, when Adekoya swept past her.
As the 2015 All Africa Games champion ran out of stream in the final 30 metres of her first ever indoor race, Jamaica’s Stephenie Ann McPherson edged past the flagging Zambian to take the second automatic qualifying spot in 52.56, with Mupopo third in a national record of 52.72.
The trio clocked the fastest three times of the opening round but a similar scenario played out in the following heat with Puerto Rico’s Grace Claxton throwing down the gauntlet from the gun and going through the halfway point in 24.65 with the USA’s Ashley Spencer two metres back.
Claxton still had the lead coming off the final bend but first Spencer and then the Netherlands’ IAAF World Indoor Tour winner Lisanne De Witte passed her, the American winning in 52.96 to De Witte’s 53.19.
The third heat provided the main upset of the heats with Jamaica’s Chrisann Gordon, considered a pre-event medal prospect, stumbling while trying to pass British Virgin Islands’ Ashley Kelly around the outside as the pair disputed the lead coming off the penultimate bend, and she ended up on the inside of the track.
As Gordon, who managed to stay on her feet, watched the race unfold it was Poland’s Justyna Swiety who came through to win the closely contested race in 54.23, with Slovakia’s Iveta Putalova second in 54.53, while Kelly slipped back to third in 54.95.
US champion Quanera Hayes had little difficultly progressing from the fourth and final heat.
She was in comfortable control at the bell, passed in 24.93, and held off Poland’s Malgorzata Holub to win in 52.98 with her European rival second in 53.15.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF