Maria Mutola’s quest for a seventh title continued successfully, but with the competitive ferocity displayed by her chief rivals, showed that her task is indeed a daunting one.
Jamaican Kenia Sinclair, who only began competing seriously in the event last year, controlled the second semi-final nearly from the outset en route to a 2:00.06 win, breaking her own national record and threatening the event’s still-formidable two minute barrier.
Mutola, who has won the last three editions, finished second in 2:00.29, marking the first time the Mozambican did not win her semi-final at the World Indoor Championships.
It took a French national record of 2:00.42 by Elisabeth Grousselle to nab the third and last qualifying spot from Russian Natalya Tsyganova, who was another four one-hundredths adrift.
In an even tighter battle, Hasna Benhassi, the 2001 champion at 1500 metres, won the first semi in 2:03.59 after taking the lead 200 metres into the race. World leader Olga Kotlyarova, who pursued Benhassi from the outset of the first lap, finished just a step behind in 2:03.70. Polish national champion Ewaline Setowska held off the challenge of fast-finishing Briton Jennifer Meadows, 2:03:87 to 2:03.95, for the final spot.
“I’m not running at my maximum yet,” said Benhassi, an experienced and successful major championship competitor. “In the final, I’ll keep an eye on the Russian and Maria Mutola because she is particularly strong in the last 50 metres.”