Dayron Robles and Ladji Doucoure cruise into the men's 110m hurdles final (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Men's 110m Hurdles - Semi-Finals

At just 21 years of age, Dayron Robles has achieved more than any other man in the history of the 110m Hurdles, in terms of performance that is.

In terms of medals he still has a long way to go.

After his 13.12 semi final win tonight in Beijing, Robles looks set to write the first page of what could be a long list of major championships achievements. His ease this evening was quite impressive and certainly must have helped building up his confidence. Something the Cuban World record holder needs heading into tomorrow’s final. Famously, he failed to win a medal at the last IAAF World Championships both indoors and outdoors.

The only athlete to open with six strides (instead of seven) from the blocks to the first hurdle, Robles had a clear lead as early as the first flight. All he had to do was maintain his foot speed and stay clear of the remaining nine barriers. Tonight, it was no problem for Robles.

David Payne, who beat Robles for bronze in Osaka last year, surged past 2005 World champion Ladji Doucouré in the run in to claim second in 13.21. However it was the French record holder who made the biggest impression, his 13.22 an improvement of 11 hundredths of a second on his season’s best time.

Doucouré had to cut his indoor season short and delay his summer training after suffering a hamstring injury but seems to have recovered in time. The 25-year-old had made an impressive breakthrough on the world scene at the Athens Olympic Games when he was safely in silver medal position before hitting the last hurdle and fading to eighth. Certainly, he will aim at a cleaner race and a spot on the podium at what will be his second consecutive Olympic final.

Jamaican champion Richard Phillips took the last qualifying spot in fourth at 13.43.

The second semi-final was a much closer race as US champion David Oliver failed to stamp his authority on the field. Yes he did win in 13.31 but his effort wasn’t fluid and he seemed to have worked hard to come across the finish in first.

Former World Junior champion Artur Noga of Poland was a convincing second in a personal best 13.34 as on the outside three men fought for the last two qualifying spots.

In 7, former World indoor medallist Maurice Wignall, in 8 Shi Dongpeng, a finalist at the 2003 World championships and in 9 Spanish record holder Jackson Quinonez were even going over the final barrier. The run in would determine the qualifiers.

No doubt who the crowd’s favourite was.

Unfortunately the huge roar of the 91,000 full house did not help Shi as he was given fifth place in 13.42, just two hundredths of a second off Quinonez in third and Wignall in fourth.

Much to his regret, his time was faster than fourth placer Phillips in heat 1.

With the demise of Liu Xiang and Terrence Trammell in the first round, the much awaited confrontation between the defending Olympic champion, the defending silver medallist and the World record holder will not materialize.

Yet Robles will undoubtedly offer the crowd the show of their life in tomorrow’s final his major opponents being each of the ten barriers which will be placed in lane6, the one he has been drawn in? 

As expected the US pair of Oliver and Payne will offer a great challenge from lanes 5 and 7 but keep an eye on lane 8 too as Doucouré could well surprise a few.

Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF