Usain Bolt wins his 100m semi-final at the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Report Beijing, China

Report: men’s 100m semi-finals – IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015

Usain Bolt’s path to the 100m final at the World Championships almost came to an untimely end when he stumbled his way through the first semi-final at the Bird’s Nest stadium on Sunday night.

And nine men will run in the final after the eighth and ninth fastest of the round could not be separated to the thousandth of a second.

Running in the first of the three semis, Bolt got out of the blocks alright but stumbled badly a few strides into his race. With 40 metres to go he had at least four men in front of him – Canada’s Andre De Grasse, Trayvon Bromell of the USA, Su Bingtian of China and Jak Ali Harvey of Turkey. Only the first two would go through to the final, along with the next two fastest.

Bolt was charging, however. He got past Harvey 20 metres out and running the last 10 metres looking across at the other three to his left he edged De Grasse at the line, both being clocked at 9.96 seconds into a -0.4m/s headwind. Bromell and Su crossed the line in 9.99, an equal national record for the Chinese who earlier this year became the first Chinese sprinter to go under 10 seconds.

All of this was put in the shade by Justin Gatlin’s performance in winning the second semi-final. This year’s world leader was already clear of the field by the time he came out of his drive phase at 30 metres. Gatlin crossed the line to win in 9.77, though he had the aid of a 0.9m/s tailwind.

Michael Rodgers took second place in 9.88 with Femi Ogunode of Qatar third in 10.00 and missing the final.

The third semi-final looked the toughest on paper with little to choose between Asafa Powell, Tyson Gay and Jimmy Vicaut.

It proved to be every bit as tough as it looked. Gay and Powell dashed through the second half of the race stride-for-stride with Gay leaning better at the line to take the win, 9.96 to 9.97. Vicaut was a close-up third in 9.99.

As in the first semi, the wind was again -0.4m/s.

The issue then became determining the fastest non-automatic finalists. Bromell, Su and Vicaut had all run 9.99. Bromell, third in the first semi, was safe, but Su and Vicaut both ran identical times of 9.987. Because the Bird’s Nest has an extra lane in the straight, both advanced to the final later in the night.

Ogunode became the luckless possessor of an unenviable statistic. His 10.00 equalled the time of China’s Zhang Peimeng who, two years ago in Moscow, became the fastest man to miss a World Championships final. At least misery now has company.

It is also the first time in World Championships history that a sub-10-second time has been required to reach the final.

Len Johnson for the IAAF