Aries Merritt and Sergey Shubenkov in the 110m hurdles heats at the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Report Beijing, China

Report: men's 110m hurdles heats – IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015

The very nature of the men's 110m sprint hurdles makes it an event fraught with potential pitfalls and the opening round served up more drama than an episode of House of Cards.

In the opening heat, Germany’s Alexander John was removed from the competition for jumping the gun and then, once the race began in earnest it claimed, one middleweight victim and almost one heavyweight contender.

Trinidad and Tobago's Pan American Games silver medallist Mikel Thomas stumbled and fell after hurdle one to prematurely exit the competition while in the adjacent lane, world number two Omar McLeod was making hard work of trying to progress.

The Jamaican banged into hurdles two and four before smashing through hurdle five. He badly lost his balance on landing but miraculously remained upright and somehow held his composure to fight back and take second, with four automatic qualification spots on offer for Thursday's semi-finals, in 13.43.

Shane Brathwaite, of Barbados, ignored the chaos going on around him to take victory in 13.28 while China's Wenjun Xie delighted the home crowd to advance in third with 13.44.

Heat two also produced its fair share of drama.

USA’s Ronnie Ash appeared to flinch on the blocks and was disqualified by officials. The American was not too happy at the decision and several minutes of confusion ensued before he finally left the track.

The field was then reduced to six athletes after Czech Republic’s former European indoor 60m hurdles champion Petr Svoboda appeared to commit the same transgression and was eliminated but he was later reinstated after the Jury of Appeal reviewed the video evidence and he was allowed to proceed to the semi-finals.

When the race finally got underway, France's gifted current European indoor 60m hurdles champion Pascal Martinot-Lagarde – who did not appear to be running at full tilt – took the heat win in 13.35.

Jamaica's Commonwealth champion Andrew Riley, who had earlier requested water from volunteers while waiting for Ash to leave the arena, grabbed second in 13.43.

Heat three was without major incident as defending champion David Oliver gave a clear indication he is in no mood to relinquish his title, by qualifying fastest for the semi-finals. The powerhouse American looked fully in control from the gun and stopped the clock in 13.15, despite running into a 1.0mps headwind. Last year’s world Indoor 60m hurdles bronze medallist Garfield Darien, of France, took second in 13.43, but slightly surprisingly, Cuba’s former world junior champion Yordan O'Farrill of – with a season's best of 13.23 – will not feature in the semi-finals after placing a distant sixth in 13.64.  

The London 2012 Olympic Games bronze medallist Hansle Parchment was an eye-catching winner of heat four.

The Jamaican record holder appeared to be running in third gear but still managed to record 13.33, 0.02 clear of Germany’s Matthias Buchler, who set a season's best.

Much less impressive was Aleec Harris. The US indoor 60m hurdles champion qualified third in 13.41 but produced a far from technically accomplished display, which he will need to improve upon should he wish to advance beyond the semi-finals.

Reigning Olympic champion Aries Merrit was as smooth as silk while taking the heat five win in 13.25. The American world record holder, who has struggled to reach his heights of his 2012 campaign chiefly because of a kidney disorder, gave a hint that he could once again be approaching his best form as he flashed past the line in 13.25.

In a high-class final heat, Dmitri Bascou ensured all three French athletes advanced to the semi-finals by taking second in 13.29. Russia’s two-time European champion Sergey Shubenkov also comfortably progressed in third with 13.31.

Steve Landells for the IAAF