Kaliese Spencer erased all doubts about her shape after a mid-season injury, easily advancing to the semifinals of the 400m hurdles, along with the defending champion Zuzana Hejnova.
The Jamaican dominated throughout the last season, winning the Diamond Race, and got off to a great start this year, as well, winning three Diamond League meetings in a row.
However, after missing six weeks of action through a leg injury up, her fitness was still a question mark ahead the qualifying rounds.
In her heat, Spencer led from the start to the finish, jogging through the line to 55.03.
Earning a spot in the semi-finals is a redemption for the Caribbean athlete, as two years ago in Moscow she was disqualified in the heats for improper hurdle clearance.
Hejnova had no problems qualifying either. The Czech had a smooth race, winning an early-stage duel with Eilidh Child in 54.55, over the Briton’s 54.74.
Three fastest times of the morning came in the third heat, where USA’s Cassandra Tate, the fourth fastest in the world this season so far, recorded an impressive 54.27 running from the lane one.
Trying to chase Tate, two other hurdlers went sub-55. South Africa’s Wenda Nel clocked 54.45, while the Briton Meghan Beesley ran 54.52 for third, improving her personal best by almost half-a-second.
The world leader and the reigning world junior champion Shamier Little didn’t have the best of races in her heat. The US champion went out fast, but her stride pattern disintegrated in the last 100 metres and she lost her rhythm twice on the home stretch.
Little managed to still finish fourth in 56.47, just managing to secure a spot in the semi-finals, as the qualifying formula was the four fastest in each of the five heats heat plus the next four fastest runners.
The victory in this heat went to Jamaica’s Janieve Russell with a time of 55.09.
Denmark’s Sara Petersen is the only athlete besides Hejnova and Little to run a sub-54 race this season so far after setting a personal best of 53.99 in July.
Today, she didn’t need to run that fast and her er time of 55.11 was enough for a decisive win in the heat four and for a spot in the next round.
The unforgiving nature of hurdle races caused a couple of notable falls.
The 2015 Asian champion Kemi Adekoya, from Bahrain, couldn’t handle the first hurdle, losing all hope for a top-four finish. Italy’s Yadisleidy Pedroso, while on pace for a top-three finish in her heat, clipped the last barrier, and suffered a painful fall.
Elena Dyachkova for the IAAF