Alysia Johnson Montano of the United States looks on after competing in the Women's 800m Round 1 Heats on Day 12 of the London 2012 Olympic Games on 08 August 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright

London 2012 - Event Report - Women's 800m Heats

Alysia Johnson Montano is renowned for her front running but her spectacular 55.55 first lap in the opening heat came as a surprise with the main pack content to stay together 20m behind.

The American running as she always does with a flower in her hair because she likes to appear feminine when training with the boys, slowed to 31sec over the next 200m split and eventually came home in 2:00.47.

"I felt really good," she said. "I was surprised it was as fast as it was," an understatement given the quick first quarter. "I didn't feel like I went out too hard. There was a moment when I thought to myself 'slow down' but I didn't."

As the 2010 World Indoor bronze medallist did relax, Caster Semenya under pressure from Halima Hachlaf almost closed her down, holding off the Moroccan by 0.28sec in 2:00.71 as all three went through automatically to the semi finals.

Last year's World Champion Mariya Savinova took the easy route to qualifying, lying sixth and out of trouble at the bell passed in 60.23 with Alice Schmidt at the front.

The Russian moved alongside the leader at 600m before taking charge of the race down the home straight to win ahead of Schmidt - coached by the 1984 Olympic champion Joaquim Cruz - by 0.09sec in 2:01.56. Indian record holder Tintu Luka went through in 2:01.75.

There were three non-starters in the third heat including the highly fancied 20-year-old Ethiopian Fantu Magiso who in the early season meets has beaten all of the top names including defending champion Pamela Jelimo, Janeth Jepkosgei, Savinova and Semenya but withdrew with a foot injury.

The snail pace of the remaining five competitors saw them pass through 400m in 68.06 before it warmed up down the backstraight and Francine Niyonsaba took the tape in 2:07.57. Behind her Jessica Smith and Genzeb Shumi clocked 2:07.75 and 2:07.77.

World leader Jelimo was in the next heat and the Kenyan, who was the youngest gold medallist at the Beijing Games, after a 59.21 split and tracking Eleni Filandra, made her break with 200m remaining to win in 2:00.54.

Jelimo said: ""There was a lot of pressure on me to qualify, not for myself but for my country. This experience has enabled me to see how much energy I need to apply, so it has been good for me. I am fit, I am strong and the important thing is not straining yourself and to try your best."

Lynsey Sharp a controversial selection for Great Britain ahead of some much more experienced women, placed runner up after speeding ahead of early pacemaker Filandra in the home straight and beating her by 0.88sec in 2:01.41.

The fifth heat after another dawdling opening 400m of 68.70, developed into a sprint over the final 250m and the speed of Nataliya Lupu this year's World Indoor runner up behind Jelimo, saw her hold off European champion Yelena Arzhakova by 0.04sec in 2:08.35.

Cherono Koech in the closest finish of the morning gained the automatic third slot by just 0.02sec from Maryna Arzamasava posting a mark of 2:08.43. The Belarusian, a 1:59.00 performer, will be kicking herself for exiting in such a slow race.

The final qualifier was totally controlled by the 2008 silver medallist Jepkosgei who towed the pack through the bell in a very respectable 58.71 and was never headed when attacked by her rivals over the final circuit.

The Kenyan, Russian title holder Ekaterina Poistogova and Rosibel Garcia sailed broadsides down the final straight together which was reflected in their times at the line 2:01.04, 2:01.08 and 2:01.30.

Jepkosgei the 2007 World champion and now fully fit, said: "It was OK. The weather conditions were fine, the track was good and my fitness is fine. I have recovered from all my previous injuries."

The race provided three of the six fastest losers with Elena Lavric, Margarita Mukasheva and Neisha Thomas progressing while Rosa Almanza with Geena Gall from the first and fourth qualifiers joining them.

David Martin for the IAAF