The great women’s one-lap rematch is on, but might there by an interloper looming on the horizon?
We shall see come final time on Wednesday night but the way some events have been unfolding on the London Stadium track, perhaps Salwa Eid Naser could yet meddle with the script of the great Shaunae Miller-Uibo vs Allyson Felix showdown.
The 19-year-old Bahraini arrived in London with a lifetime best of 50.88 and improved to 50.57 with the fastest time in the heats. In the semifinals her arc of improvement continued its upward trajectory.
Drawn in heat two, Naser entered the home straight some five metres down on the flying Felix but closed the gap on the nine-time World Championships gold medallist before nipping past in the final few strides to win in 50.08, another big PB and national record.
It put the teenager fifth on the world U20 all-time list, missed the Asian U20 record by a mere 0.07 and was the fastest time by an U20 athlete since Sanya Richards-Ross in 2004.
Felix, seeking a second world title at 400m and no doubt revenge for her loss to the diving Miller-Uibo in the dramatic Olympic final in Rio last year, took the second automatic qualifying spot in 50.12.
“It was really hard to run against Felix,” Naser reflected. “I did not try to catch up with her; I just ran as fast as possible to get into the final.
“I am just picking up the experiences from major events. I still think I can go even faster.”
As in the heats, Naser’s time proved the quickest. After surging clear in the opening 300 metres, Miller-Uibo could afford to shut up shop halfway down the home straight and still finish a comfortable winner in 50.36 – 0.20 ahead of 2013 world bronze medallist Stephenie Ann McPherson of Jamaica.
World indoor bronze medallist Quanera Hayes paid the price for a sluggish start. She closed on McPherson in the last 100 metres but third place in 50.71 proved too slow to claim a non-automatic qualifying place in the final for the US champion, who stands second to Felix on the world list this year with 49.72.
Phyllis Francis, a member of the gold medal winning US 4x400m team in Rio last year, was a clear winner of heat three, clocking 50.37. Zambia’s Kabange Mupopo finished runner-up in 50.60.
Jamaica’s NCAA champion Chrisann Gordon, third in 50.87, and 2011 world champion Amantle Montsho of Botswana, fourth in 51.28, both failed to make it. The two non-automatic qualifying places in the final went to the Jamaican duo who finished third and fourth respectively behind Naser and Felix: 2007 bronze medallist Novlene Williams-Mills (50.67) and Shericka Jackson (50.70).
Simon Turnbull for the IAAF