The basic aim of the heats is 4x100m is simple. Make sure you get the baton or stick – depending on what terminology you prefer – around one lap safely. This is usually something easier said than done, but today the fight to win a place in Saturday’s final was, for once, without significant incident.
In heat one, the USA selected, arguably, their strongest line-up containing the four men who ran the individual 100m: Trayvon Bromell, Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and Mike Rodgers. The tactic worked like a charm as the quartet advanced without alarm.
The US had failed to finish in this event at three of the previous five IAAF World Championships due to a variety of mishaps but today the winners at the IAAF World Relays in May enjoyed the comfort of three solid exchanges and it was mission accomplished as Rodgers anchored the US to a handy heat-winning time of 37.91.
In the scrap for the two other automatic spots, an eye-catching third leg by James Ellington helped Great Britain book their ticket for the final as they recorded a season’s best of 38.20, following a trouble-free outing.
Germany, the fourth-place finisher at the 2013 World Championships, clinched the third automatic spot in 38.57 just 0.03 clear of fourth-placed Japan, who miss out on a World Championships 4x100m final for only the second time in the past eight editions.
The second heat witnessed the second-fastest time in a 4x100m qualification round in IAAF World Championships history as a Bolt-less Jamaican quartet sent out a strong warning to their rivals that they are in no mood to surrender their title.
But, for the home crowd, it was China’s Asian record performance of 37.92 which was the highlight.
The second heat of the 4x100m had to be momentarily delayed following chants of ‘China’ ringing around an atmospheric Bird's Nest Stadium from excitable home supporters as the host nation chased their first spot in a men's 4x100m World Championship final for 28 years.
Jamaica were resting Bolt ahead of the final but otherwise selected a powerful quartet of Nesta Carter, Asafa Powell, Rasheed Dwyer and Nickel Ashmeade.
Carter gave the defending champions a blistering start and almost caught the stagger up on Dutch athlete Solomon Bockarie running on his immediate outside after the first leg.
For the remainder of the race, the Jamaicans put on an exhibition of relay excellence to stop the clock just 0.01 outside of their fastest time ever seen during the rounds of a 4x100m at a World Championships, what was then a world record mark for the USA at the 1993 World Championships.
The battle behind was absorbing and the host nation entered the home straight – amid ear-splitting screams of support from the home crowd – in second after a quick third leg from 100m finalist and national 100m record-holder Su Bingtian.
On the anchor leg, France’s Jimmy Vicaut powered past China’s Zhang Peimeng to take second in 37.88 but China took the crucial third automatic spot in 37.92, trimming 0.07 from the Asian record in the process.
In a high-quality heat, Antigua and Barbuda, courtesy of a national record 38.01, and Canada (38.03) also advanced as the two fastest non-automatic qualifiers to Saturday's final.
Steve Landells for the IAAF