Treble European champion Dina Asher-Smith began her campaign for her first individual global medal with her seventh sub-eleven second clocking from eight 100m races in 2019 in the 100m heats at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha.
Asher-Smith cruised through as a winner from the fourth heat in 10.96 in near still conditions, comfortably ahead of Olympic finalist English Gardner from the United States and Jonielle Smith from Jamaica who both clocked 11.20.
The Brit is favoured for medals in both the 100m and 200m but she will face some significant competition from the former three-time world champion and two-time Olympic champion Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce who blitzed to a 10.80 victory from the first heat - the fastest heat ever recorded in IAAF World Championships history.
Double world silver medallist Marie-Josee Ta Lou allayed recent injury concerns by equalling her lifetime best of 10.85 and Jamaica's Olympic champion Elaine Thompson cruised to a 11.14 heat win.
Switzerland’s Mujinga Kambundji and Dafne Schippers from the Netherlands are also contesting both individual sprint events in Doha and they also began their campaigns in winning form. They both clocked 11.17 to win heat five and heat six respectively.
Reigning champion Warholm qualifies fastest for the 400m hurdles final
A 48.28 clocking in the 400m hurdles has seldom been made to look easier than Karsten Warholm’s performance in the second semifinal in Doha.
The reigning champion kept faithful to his trademark aggressive approach which saw him amass a handsome lead over the eighth hurdle and into the home straight. While his rivals were straining every sinew to secure the second qualifying spot, Warholm sauntered across the line in 48.28 - the fastest time across the three semifinals.
“On the track I felt better than yesterday," remarked Warholm. "I think I managed a pretty good run and maybe spared myself some energy for the final."
Warholm is unbeaten in his specialist event this year but his staunch US rival Rai Benjamin cemented his status as a legitimate title challenger and a potential successor to Warholm as world champion, winning the third semifinal with plenty in spare in 48.52 ahead of Qatar’s Abderrahman Samba in 48.72.
Former European champion and reigning world silver medallist Yasmani Copello was almost eliminated after an insipid showing in the heats but the Turk delivered a more commensurate performance in the semifinals, finishing second in the first heat of the 400m hurdles in a season’s best of 48.39. Estonia’s Rasmus Magi also qualified on time with 48.93.
Reigning world 800m champion Pierre-Ambroise Bosse from France navigated his way through to the semifinals with a third-place finish from heat three in 1:46.14 but world silver medallist Adam Kszczot had a nail-biting wait after finishing fifth in the fourth heat in 1:46.20. He made it through as the fifth of six non-automatic qualifiers.
Stahl and Duplantis in contention for double gold for Sweden
Reigning world and European silver medallist Daniel Stahl from Sweden was the only athlete to surpass the automatic qualifying mark of 65.50m across the two pools. After beginning with a no-throw, Stahl didn’t make any mistake on his second attempt which hit the turf at 67.88m.
Reigning champion Andrius Gudzius’ first throw of 64.14m secured a passage into the final but there was no place for reigning Olympic champion Christoph Harting from Germany who missed out by two places with 63.08m. Veteran Pole Piotr Malachowski, who won this title in Beijing four years ago, also missed out with 62.20m.
Stahl's teammate Armand Duplantis needed three attempts at the automatic qualifying height of 5.75m in pole vault qualifying although his first-time clearance at 5.70m would have sufficed for a place in the final. The European champion thus progressed through to his second world final at the age of 19, although reigning European indoor champion and 2011 world champion Pawel Wojciechowski from Poland missed out on countback at 5.70m.
Having won medals at the last five editions of the IAAF World Championships, world record-holder Renaud Lavillenie also fell short of a place in the final with a best of 5.60m. The last time the Frenchman didn't progress through to a final in a major championships - indoors or outdoors - was the 2010 World Indoor Championships which was also held in Doha.
"This is frustrating but I am not the first person to whom such a thing has happened," philosophised Lavillenie. "Such things happen, you just have to accept it."
Steven Mills for European Athletics