Sally Pearson has made no secret of the fact that she likes running in London. In 2012, she won Olympic gold in the city in 12.35. Earlier this year – her first season back after a torn hamstring kept her out of the 2016 Olympics in Rio – she clocked her season's best of 12.48 when finishing second to world record-holder Kendra Harrison at the IAAF Diamond League Meeting in London.
Here in the semi-finals at the IAAF World Championships London 2017, the Australian showed she means business, stamping her authority on the rest of the field with the fastest time across all three semi-finals with 12.53. After a good start, the 30-year-old looked back to her best, leading from gun to tape, with Olympic silver medallist and twice world indoor champion Nia Ali of the USA taking the second automatic qualifying spot in 12.79.
Second fastest on paper coming into London, Pearson will be hoping to go one better than her world silver from Moscow in 2013 and regain the world title that she won in 2011 to further add to her good memories of London.
"I haven't come here to come second. I'm just happy to be going through the rounds and feeling good. It would have been great to be back running at a world championships anywhere in the world, but I guess it's a bonus and super special to be back in London,” explained Pearson.
However, the semi-finals were not without drama. After clattering the first hurdle, US champion Harrison finished only third in semi-final three in 12.86 to qualify as the second non-automatic qualifier by 0.01.
Having been disqualified for a false start in the semi-finals at the IAAF World Championships in 2015 and finishing only eighth in the 2016 World Indoor Championships after hitting a hurdle, the 24-year-old does not have the best global championships record. She will want to prove a point in tomorrow's final, especially as she also missed out on selection for the Rio Olympics last year, despite clocking the world record of 12.20 a few weeks before the Games.
However, leading the world list with her 12.28 clocking from Szekesfehervar, the US champion is still the athlete to beat - having also taken IAAF Diamond League victories in Doha (after breaking her hand in warm-up), London and Monaco in 2017 – but she cannot afford to make any mistakes in the final.
“I can't worry about one performance. I think that first little hiccup threw me off, but I just tried to make it through. I'm excited for the final, it's my first one, and I'm ready to come out here and get the job done,” explained Harrison.
2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson capitalised on Harrison's mishap, taking victory in semi-final three in 12.63. She will be hoping to draw on her global championships experience and upgrade her bronze from 2011 in Daegu – her only IAAF World Championships medal. Germany's Pamela Dutkiewicz – in the form of her life after a 12.61 lifetime best earlier this season – qualified for her first global championships final in second with 12.71.
US bronze medallist Christina Manning looked impressive when winning the second semi-final in 12.71 to ensure four US athletes will be in the final. 2015 world bronze medallist Alina Talay of Belarus bagged the other automatic qualifying spot with a 12.85 season's best in second.
The Netherlands' Nadine Visser – who was seventh in the heptathlon earlier in the week – ensured it will be three Europeans in the final after securing the second non-automatic qualifying spot with 12.83 for third in semi-final one.
If Harrison can get it right, it would appear that nobody has the speed to match her, but with more experienced global championship performers in the field, it could come down to who is mentally strongest and who is the smoothest technician on the day.
Emily Moss for the IAAF