Allyson Felix and Shaunae Miller in the 400m at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images) © Copyright
Report Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Report: women's 400m semi-finals – Rio 2016 Olympic Games

Allyson Felix gained a clear psychological edge on Shaunae Miller, whom many assume is her chief rival for gold, by edging the Bahamian in an intriguing third semi-final.

In a possible dress rehearsal for the final, Felix quickly established control of the race and held a two-stride advantage entering the final 100 metres from the much taller Miller with Italy’s European champion Libania Grenot also prominent.

The world champion managed to maintain her advantage down the home straight, stopping the clock in a hugely impressive 49.67 – the second-fastest one-lap time of her career – 0.23 clear of Miller, the world silver medallist.

Grenot advanced on time in 50.60 and in so doing became the first Italian in history to reach an Olympic women’s 400m final.

Phyllis Francis had been the quickest qualifier from the first-round heats and in the semi-finals she once more revealed her potential medal ability by finishing strongly to claim victory in 50.31.

In an absorbing semi-final which ebbed and flowed, Bahrain’s Kemi Adekoya made the most aggressive start and led into 200m before Jamaica’s Stephenie-Ann McPherson made a significant move around the final bend.

Entering the straight it was McPherson who grabbed control of the race only for Francis to come with a late charge to take the semi-final win by 0.38 from McPherson, who banked the second automatic spot.

Ukraine’s Olha Zemlyak finished like an express train to chop 0.25 from her PB to take third with the fading Adekoya fourth in 50.88.

There was disappointment for 2008 Olympic champion 2012 silver medallist Christine Ohuruogu as she trailed home fifth in 51.22, her dreams of a third successive Olympic final in tatters.

In heat two, USA’s Natasha Hastings ran a typically aggressive race, blasting through 200m a clear leader from Shericka Jackson of Jamaica. Entering the home straight Hastings had a clear five-metre lead but started to pay the price for her early pace and was pipped on the line by Jackson, who wiped 0.16 from her lifetime best to run a hugely impressive 49.83. Such was the level of her performance here, she stood mouth open in shock after the race.

Hastings herself ran a season’s best of 49.90 to earn an automatic place in the final. The 18-year-old Salwa Eid Naser of Bahrain, who recorded a PB of 51.06 in the heats, slashed a further 0.18 from her lifetime best to take third, but it was not quite enough for the world U18 champion to make it to the final.

Steve Landells for the IAAF