Wayde van Niekerk, seeking to match Michael Johnson’s 1995 achievement of earning world 200m and 400m titles, squeezed through to tomorrow night’s 200m final as the slowest qualifier on a rain-swept night when the man previously expected to be his main rival here, Isaac Makwala, also went through after being required to run two races – the first of them a solo time trial after receiving medical clearance to compete.
Biggest casualty of the night was Jamaica’s Yohan Blake, the 2011 world 100m champion.
Van Niekerk was passed on the inside early in the last of the three semifinals by US champion Ameer Webb, who held his form to qualify in 20.22 despite being passed by Turkey’s Ramil Guliyev, who won in 20.17.
The 25-year-old South African, who had successfully defended his 400m title the night before, was closing fast on the leading pair but left it too late for automatic qualification, clocking 20.28.
“I knew it would be a tough challenge,” he said. “To see my name in the final is a real pleasure. I’ve got time to recover now and give it my all in the final.”
After his solo 20.20 clocking at the start of the programme, all eyes were on Makwala in the first 200m semifinal.
The sprinter from Botswana had performed a series of push-ups on the track after running alone in lane seven to better the qualifying target of 20.53.
That had earned him the dubious draw of lane one, worst affected by standing water in the steady rain, as he lined up for the opening semifinal. But he ran a strong bend to reach the straight in joint lead with Isiah Young of the United States, and raised his arms as if he had won a medal as he claimed the second automatic qualifying spot for tomorrow’s final in 20.14, with the US sprinter clocking 20.12, the fastest time of the night.
Britain’s Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake was close behind in 20.19, thus claiming the other additional place with Van Niekerk once all the races had been completed.
Makwala’s time was exactly matched by the impressive winner of the second heat, Trinidad and Tobago’s Jereem Richards, who produced a supercharged final 50 metres in lane five after rounding the bend in contention with 18-year-old Hakim Sani Brown of Japan in lane nine, and Jamaica’s Yohan Blake.
Richards was closing down over the final metres, but finished well clear of Sani Brown, who claimed the second automatic qualifying spot in 20.43, with the 27-year-old Blake – who ran 19.26 in 2011 less than a fortnight after winning his world 100m title after compatriot Usain Bolt had been disqualified – failing to progress with 20.52.
Sani Brown will become the youngest World Championships 200m finalist in history, supplanting Bolt.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF