Leading the world list with her 12.28 clocking from Szekesfehervar, world record-holder Kendra Harrison has proved herself as the athlete to beat in 2017. Here, she got her IAAF World Championships London 2017 campaign off to a good start, clocking the fastest heat time of 12.60.
The 24-year-old will be looking to put her previous global championships demons behind her. In 2015 she was disqualified for a false start in the semi-finals at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing. At the World Indoor Championships in 2016, she had led the qualifying rounds, but hit the first hurdle in the final and placed eighth. Last year, after finishing only sixth at the US Championships, she missed out on qualification for the Olympic Games in Rio. However, she bounced back to break the world record with her 12.20 clocking at the London Muller Anniversary Games a few weeks before the Olympics.
Harrison made no mistakes at the US Championships this year, taking victory in 12.60 to go alongside her IAAF Diamond League victories from Doha (after breaking her hand in warm-up), London and Monaco and she has not lost a race since the US Championships last year.
"I'm truly blessed to be here. I've had a great season and I'm excited to wear USA on my chest and come out here and represent them. Winning definitely builds confidence and this round is about getting my legs ready. I'll come back, run fast and get ready for the finals,” explained Harrison.
However, given the unpredictable nature of the sprint hurdles, the finishing order rarely goes according to the form book.
Based on form in the heats, the Jamaicans are not going to let the US athletes – who achieved a clean sweep of the medals at last year's Olympics - have it all their own way. Defending champion Danielle Williams was a convincing winner of heat one in 12.66 – a time only beaten by Harrison in heat three. Like Harrison, the 24-year-old also missed out on selection for the Olympics last year, but has shown she is in top form in 2017 after a PB of 12.56 to win the Jamaican Championships and finishing just 0.07 behind Harrison at the Diamond League in Monaco.
"I've learned from the mistakes I made last year. Not making Rio was a big motivator for me. I'm stronger and faster than I was in Beijing but I've just had to be patient. I don't focus on causing an 'upset' here. If I win, I deserve it,” explained Williams.
Jamaican silver medallist Megan Simmonds also made her intentions known, beating Olympic silver medallist and twice world indoor champion Nia Ali to win heat three in 12.78 to 12.93.
Heat four proved to be a race between two former Olympic champions, as 2012 winner Sally Pearson of Australia took victory in 12.72 from the USA's 2008 champion Dawn Harper-Nelson (12.88). 2011 world champion Pearson was another to miss last year's Olympics – due to a hamstring injury – but has battled back to form in 2017. Her 12.48 clocking from the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London places her second in the world lists for this year.
US bronze medallist Christina Manning won heat five in 12.87 and fresh from a 12.58 lifetime best at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Lausanne, the 27-year-old could also be in the mix.
Germany's Pamela Dutkiewicz was the pick of the European athletes, finishing second in her heat behind Williams in 12.74. 2015 world bronze medallist Alina Talay of Belarus clocked 12.88 for second behind Harrison in heat three, whilst former European U20 champion Isabelle Pedersen of Norway and The Netherlands' Nadine Visser – seventh in the heptathlon earlier in the week – also ran faster than 13 seconds, clocking 12.94 and 12.96 respectively.
Emily Moss for the IAAF