There are many ways to qualify for an IAAF World Championships 400m hurdles final and two contrasting approaches were on display in the first of three semifinals.
In lane five was Norway’s Karsten Warholm, rocking back and forth before taking his marks, slapping his cheeks and chest and muttering words of encouragement to himself.
In lane seven stood Olympic champion Kerron Clement, a picture of serenity, calmly focusing on his lane and the task in hand.
Warholm, the European U23 champion, drove out of his blocks hard, his legs appearing to turn over faster than anyone else in the field, while Clement was all relaxation, the 31-year-old in no hurry to have the race won in the first 100 metres.
By 300 metres, Warholm was well clear of the field, chased hard by the Dominican Republic’s Juander Santos and Jamaica’s Kemar Mowatt. But, as the three of them slowed over the final two flights, Clement eased past, drawing on all of his experience to make up four metres in the home straight and crossing the line in 48.35, his second quickest time of the season.
The 2007 and 2009 world champion was satisfied with his night’s work.
“I keep pulling it out this season,” he noted. “I trust my strength and I know I am the best off that last hurdle. If anyone is arms’ length of me at the last hurdle, it's a wrap.
“I just need to concentrate on the turn because that can be my achilles heel. I need to make sure that goes smoothly for the final.”
Warholm will join him there, recording the third best time of his career, 48.43, and grinning with delight, his decision to run flat out from the gun vindicated.
Santos and Mowatt also progressed to Wednesday’s final from the first race as time qualifiers, with 48.59 and 48.66 respectively.
There was drama in the second semifinal, as the USA’s TJ Holmes, Jamaica’s Jaheel Hyde and Mamadou Kasse Hann entered the home straight side by side, a few metres clear of the rest.
By hurdle 10, fatigue took its toll on the French athlete as he tumbled to the track after clattering the upright, seemingly leaving Hyde and Holmes, who had been drawn in the same race for the second time in successive days, a free run.
Yet out of nowhere, 2014 European champion Kariem Hussein, drawn in the inside lane, surged to the line, finishing second to Holmes in 49.13, just 0.01 behind the US runner. He qualified at Hyde’s expense.
In Sunday morning’s heat, Turkey’s Yasmani Copello and Qatar’s Abderrahaman Samba finished first and second, Copello on that occasion easing to the win in the final few strides.
In the third semifinal a day later, they again found themselves approaching the line in qualifying positions, but this time it was the 21-year-old Qatari who pressed on to the finish, clocking 48.75.
Olympic bronze medallist Copello took the second spot with 48.91 and looked the more relaxed of the two, perhaps suggesting more to come in the final.
But US champion Eric Futch, who had only made the semifinal as a time qualifier, was eliminated after running a ragged race, no more evident than at the final hurdle where he lost all momentum.
Dean Hardman for the IAAF