Natalya Antyukh of Russia jumps a hurdle in the Women's 400m Hurdles semi final on Day 10 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 6, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright

London 2012 - Event Report - Women's 400m Hurdles Semi-Finals

Drama struck at London Olympic stadium as the women’s 400m Hurdles semi-finals proved a step too far for the equal second fastest sprinters on the World season’s list and the defending Olympic champion too!

European champion and runner up at her national trials, Irina Davydova was way off her 53.77 season’s best when she was unable to do better than fifth in 55.86 in the second of three semis. In that same race British champion Perri Shakes-Drayton winner of her first round heat yesterday was nowhere near the class that saw her equal the second fastest time of the year in winning the London Diamond League meeting in 53.77.

Shakes-Drayton took third in 55.19 outside of the automatic qualifying positions in a heat which went to reigning World champion Lashinda Demus who had to miss out on the Beijing Olympic Games as she was unable to qualify from the US Olympic Trials when attempting a hard comeback after giving birth to twin boys in June 2007, and former World junior champion Kaliese Spencer.

Demus made sure she would be in the lead as she entered the home straight in the second semi-final well clear of Spencer who closed strongly in 54.20 to the American’s 54.08.

"It's very important," said Demus about securing the heat win. "I look forward to running in the final. It means a lot to me. I don't want to let them down. I am running for the legacy of my family even though they don't know it yet."

Shakes-Drayton would have to wait to find out whether she would be one of only 2 athletes to advance by time and it didn’t look promising for the 23-year-old after the first semi-final was a much faster affair.

"I was running kind of blind," explained Shakes-Drayton. "They were fast the other side of me. It's slower than I did yesterday. I am disappointed."

Indeed, Russian champion and the fastest in the world this year Natalya Antyukh improved her own World lead to 53.33, easily the fastest time tonight. In her wake, Czech record holder Zuzana Hejnova had another confidence boost with her own fastest time of the year in claiming second at 53.62.

"I am very happy that it happened," said Antyukh. "Because before the race I did not know how it would go. During the preparation and qualifying rounds it was very hard but at the same time it was easy because I wanted this very much. I hope that I still have a lot more to give. The final in the hurdles is always heavier, of course, but for me today it was easy."

In third, T’Erea Brown’s 54.21 would also eventually ensure her a ticket for Wednesday’s final.

In the final heat, Beijing Olympic champion Melaine Walker ran like a rookie and was never in contention for any of the leading positions let alone the win. Eventually the Jamaican champion finished all the way down in sixth at a very disappointing 55.74.

"I can't tell, obviously I don't really like the weather but the weather was not it. It was just a bad day. I don't know what happened, I'm not feeling the fire anymore," said Walker.

Up front, Muizat Ajoke Odumosu, the Commonwealth champion set a new Nigerian national record 54.40 to secure the win well clear of Georganne Moline at 54.74.

"I’m really shocked," said the Nigerian record holder. "I knew I was strong. I need to dig deep. I'm happy with a national record. I have the energy to go faster. I'm working towards breaking the 54 second barrier."

The former World Junior champion at Long Jump, Denisa Rosolova who was running from the inside lane 2 had a superb surge in the final stages to take third in 54.87 and secure the final lane for the final.

There was added drama when Rosolova was one of three athletes disqualified by the Referee for failing to clear a hurdle as stated in IAAF Rule 168.7a - his foot or leg is, at the instant of clearance, beside the hurdle (on either side), below the horizontal plane of the top of any hurdle.

Rosolova’s disqualification meant that Shakes-Drayton found herself as the last athlete to advance to the final by time but her joy would be short-lived as the Referee decided to reinstate all three athletes.

Following oral protests, the Referee examined the video of the races, but could find no conclusive evidence that the athletes had indeed infringed Rule 168.7(a). The British team decided not appeal.

Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF