The two fastest women in the world this year did the bare minimum required to win their 100m heats; in stark contrast, USA’s English Gardner sped to the fastest first-round clocking ever at the World Championships.
USA’s Octavious Freeman hadn’t raced since taking silver at her National Championships with her sensational PB of 10.87. All eyes were on the 21-year-old in the first heat to see what she would do, but instead it was Germany’s Verena Sailer who dominated the race.
The 2010 European champion got off to a great start and maintained it to the end, winning in 11.11 - the fastest time by a German woman at the World Championships since 1999. Freeman had no trouble in gaining one of the three automatic qualifying spots, but her 11.16 in second place was some way short of her best.
Jamaica’s Kerron Stewart impressed in the second heat, winning comfortably in 11.02, her fastest time at a global championships since 2009 when she took silver in the 100m in Berlin. USA’s Alexandria Anderson, another athlete who ran well below 11 seconds at the US Championships, was a metre behind in second with 11.13, with Britain’s 2007 World youth champion Asha Philip taking third in 11.29.
Gardner, the US champion with a lifetime best of 10.85, was the only athlete to back up her performance from Des Moines in June. Seemingly treating her heat like a final, she blasted out of the blocks and ran full-throttle to the finish, clocking 10.94 into a -0.5m/s headwind.
Never before had 11 seconds been broken in the first round of the women’s 100m at the World Championships. However, it should be noted that with just three rounds of the women’s 100m, these were essentially quarter-finals, and there have been faster quarter-final performances at past editions of the World Championships.
European champion Ivet Lalova was a distant second in 11.18 with Jamaica’s Sheri-Ann Brooks further back in third with 11.32.
Next up was two-time Olympic gold medallist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. The Jamaican got off to her customary good start before easing down at half way. The rest of the field then began to gain on her, but she sped up just enough before the finish line to take the win in a comfortable 11.15.
Brazil’s Franciela Krasucki was just a whisker behind in 11.17 as Nigeria’s Gloria Asumnu took the third automatic spot with 11.27.
In the following heat, Blessing Okagbare, who beat Fraser-Pryce in their last clash before Moscow, adopted the same ‘just-enough-to-win’ approach as her Jamaican rival. The Nigerian looked almost too easy for it to be an 11.03 clocking, but it sent a gentle reminder to her opponents that there is plenty more in the bag.
Brazil’s Ana Claudia Silva led for much of the way before being overtaken by Okagbare, taking second in 11.08 ahead of Jamaica’s Schillonie Calvert.
Defending champion Carmelita Jeter went in the sixth and last heat. Sheniqua Ferguson of The Bahamas got off to a superb start, only to be caught by Jeter and Murielle Ahoure of the Ivory Coast. Jeter eased off the gas in the final stages, but didn’t look quite as fluid as the other medal contenders, allowing Ahoure to take the win, 11.22 to 11.24 with Ferguson in third.
All four representatives from the USA and Jamaica qualified automatically for tomorrow’s semi-finals, but Okagbare and Ahoure are still in the hunt to become the first ever African medallist in this event at the World Championships.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF