The men’s sprint hurdlers returned to the Aspire Dome two days after their opening round of Friday for their semis and finals on the last day of competition here in Doha.
With only the top two places guaranteeing a lane in what will be the Championships last individual event, there was little room for tactics and energy-save mode, a statement which was true for all competitors bar the two fastest runners of the year respectively Terrence Trammell and Dayron Robles.
The first semi saw US champion Trammell drawn in 3 and a returning-from-injury Liu Xiang, the defending champion from Valencia in 7. After a couple of nerve-wrecking false starts by Felipe Vivancos and Alexander John, both the middle lanes were left empty leaving competitors to run in virtually two separate races: three on the inside and three on the outside.
The race went off to a fair start the third time of asking and for a moment it looked as though the former World 110m Hurdles record holder was back to his old self. But Xiang did not hold on to his lead for long as a fully relaxed Trammell sped to the line unchallenged in 7.51. The Chinese sprinter held on for the second automatic qualifier at 7.68 although his fluent technique from half way through the race was far from his top class game.
“It was a little bit disturbing,” Trammell said referring to the two false starts. “And I wanted to stay focused on myself. To compete here was my goal, so anything what comes I will accept.”
The second heat saw World outdoor record holder Robles win in 7.56 a mere hundredth ahead of Yevgeniy Borisov, who shared bronze two years ago in Valencia, but the Cuban did only just enough to edge the Russian and if Borisov hadn’t run such a strong race Robles would have used even less energy than he actually did.
It was a weird looking semi as Robles didn’t seem bothered to be ahead of the field at the start. In fact he had the worst reaction time of all and didn’t turn into second gear until well into the race. A swift change of pace over hurdles three and four and the job was done; Borisov was overtaken and the run-in was just a matter of slowing down but not too much.
The final race was the most open of the three on paper and it did prove on the track. Commonwealth Games champion Maurice Wignall blasted out of the blocks to a clear lead at the first hurdle from lane three while US runner up David Oliver, a sub-13 runner outdoors, struggling on the outside.
As Oliver worked hard to recover from his poor start, Wignall holding on to his lead until the second to last hurdle the two men running in the inside lanes, Hungary’s record holder Daniel Kiss and Peter Svoboda of Czech Republic also changed gear contemporaneously which left the race to be decided in the run-in.
Svoboda had the best dip and took the heat win in 7.60 with Oliver also finishing strong at 7.62. Wignall made a little mistake on the final hurdle which probably cost him one of the two automatic qualifier but at this point it mattered little as his third-place 7.62 was the fastest losing time. In fourth Kiss also advanced with 7.64.
A sensible betting man would put money on either Trammell or Robles but two-time World Indoor champion Lolo Jones proved yesterday that the final is a totally different race. So to quote Robles himself, “let’s wait and see what happens in two hours.”
Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF