Mouth watering could be one word used to describe Thursday’s women’s 400m final after a trio of tasty semi-final appetisers inside a hot and clammy Bird’s Nest stadium on Tuesday night.
In the first semi-final, The Bahamas’ Shaunae Miller gave a compelling case for her gold medal-winning potential as she cruised to victory in 50.12, with what appeared plenty in reserve.
The tall, long-legged Bahamian, who stands 1.87m was content to let France’s Floria Guei of France and USA’s 2013 world fifth-placer Natasha Hastings – running in the outside lane nine – to set the pace for the first half of the race.
However, by the home straight it was Miller and Jamaican champion Christine Day, running in adjacent lanes, who has assumed control.
Miller then lengthened her considerable stride to ease comfortably away from Day and her rivals and even had time to casually snatch a glance to check her position.
Day had the security of the second automatic qualification spot in 50.82 with Italy’s 2014 European champion Libania Grenot grabbed third in 51.14.
Hastings slipped back down the home straight had to settle for fifth in 51.33 and exited the competition.
In the second semi-final, Christine Ohuruogu gave an ominous message to her rivals she is not about to give up her title without a fight running by a season’s best 50.16.
The British athlete, who landed Olympic gold in this same Bird’s Nest Stadium seven years ago and is chasing an unprecedented third world title, has an uncanny ability to rise to the occasion at major championships and once again revealed this priceless skill.
She bided her time during the first three-quarters of the race and was prepared to let Nigeria’s Patience George and Jamaica’s 2014 Commonwealth champion Stephenie Ann McPherson take the pace
However, the 31-year-old Londoner powered down the home straight in trademark style to hack 0.66 from her previous 2015 best.
McPherson banked the second automatic qualification spot in a season’s best 50.32 and in a high quality semi-final USA’s Phyllis Francis placed third in 50.50 to later advance as one of the two fastest non-automatic qualifiers.
The swiftest performance of the round was delivered in the third semi-final as Allyson Felix floated around the track at the Bird’s Nest, with all the grace and ease we have come to expect from the eight-time world champion, before stopping the clock in 49.89.
Rarely has a woman running a 400m under 50 seconds looked easier as Felix, a three-time world 200m champion, looked in fine fettle in her bid to secure her maiden global one-lap crown.
Even facing pressure from Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson on her inside, Felix was relaxation personified as the American secured first spot. Jackson herself executed a great 400m to slice 0.28 from her lifetime best to place second in 50.03 and must now also be viewed as a genuine podium challenger.
The vastly experienced 2014 Diamond Race winner and 2007 world bronze medallist Novlene Williams-Mills revealed her class by taking more than half-a-second from her season’s best to record 50.47 and grab one of the two non-automatic qualification spots.
Williams-Mills presence in the final ensures Jamaica will comprise half the field for Thursday’s eight-strong final.
Steve Landells for the IAAF