We did not witness the same blistering times in the women’s 400m heats on Monday as we saw in the opening round of yesterday’s men’s equivalent, but there was still enough to suggest that we should be set for a glorious crescendo in Thursday’s final.
All the main protagonists eased comfortably through to the semi-finals, but one or two interesting new names also emerged, who can be added into the box marked ‘possible medal contenders.’
Three-time former world 200m champion Allyson Felix, who is hunting for a first world 400m title, could not have looked any easier running 50.60 to win her first round heat.
The classy American, one of the most graceful movers in global athletics, had already caught the stagger up on the two athletes to her immediate outside after just 100m and cruised around one laps of the track with the minimum of fuss.
The improving Floria Guei, of France trimmed 0.01 from her best to take second with 50.89. Natalia Pygyda, of Ukraine, grabbed the third automatic spot with 51.07.
Returning to the scene of her Olympic triumph seven years ago, defending world champion Christine Ohuruogu finished with her trademark late charge to take the victory in her heat in 51.01.
The Briton is the supreme championship athlete and will have been satisfied with her morning's work. Marie Gayot, of France, snatched second by 0.01 in a personal best of 51.24 from USA’s 2013 world finalist Natasha Hastings, who advanced in third, but alarmingly faded down the home stretch following an aggressive first half of the race.
Jamaican champion Christine Day may have taken the win her seeding merited in heat three, but the main talking point was the Kenyan record of 50.71 set by Joyce Zakary in second place.
Zakary obliterated her previous national record mark by 0.43 and finished strongly down the home stretch to close to within 0.13 of Day to suggest she has more to come.
Zambian national record holder and former international footballer Kabange Mupopo took third in 51.55.
Jamaica also took heat four as Stephenie Ann McPherson produced a season’s best of 50.34 – and the quickest performance of the round – to hold off USA’s Phyllis Francis (50.52). The pair probably ran a little harder than necessary as there was a significant gap back to third-placed Nadezhda Kotlyarova, of Russia, who ran a PB of 51.42.
Still, the performance by McPherson, the 2014 Commonwealth champion affectionately known as “chicken foot” because of her slender frame, was impressive.
Heat five served up the surprise of the round with the emergence of European Under 23 champion Bianca Razor into a genuine threat.
The Romanian sliced a massive 0.94 from her lifetime best to take victory from lane nine in 50.37.
The performance was not unsurprisingly greeted with a shriek of delight from the 21-year-old former world junior championships bronze medallist, who finished 0.04 clear of Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson, the number one ranked athlete in the heat. Nigeria’s Patience George grabbed third in 50.87.
The fastest woman in the field this year, Shaunae Miller of Bahamas, nonchalantly claimed victory in heat six. The tall Bahamian appeared to have plenty in reserve as she seemed almost to casually trot around the 400m, stopping the clock in 50.53.
Behind her, the 2014 Diamond Race winner Novlene Williams-Mills, who has not been at her best this year, produced a timely season’s best of 51.07 to advance into tomorrow night’s semi-finals. Russia’s Ekaterina Renzhina (51.55) grabbed the third automatic qualification spot.
Steve Landells for the IAAF