Action shot in the womens 800m semi-finals at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Moscow 2013 (© Getty Images)
USA’s Alysia Johnson Montano, the second-fastest runner this season of those present in Moscow, was the gun-to-tape winner of the first semi-final, winning in a fast time of 1:58.92 and naturally pulling the two time qualifiers to the final from her heat.
The 27-year-old got off to a fast start, clocking 26.95 for the first 200m and continued to 400m in a clear lead in 56.33. By 600m the other runners – mainly Moroccan Halima Hachlaf and Nataliia Lupu of Ukraine behind her – seemed to be gaining ground on Johnson Montano, but she kept on going, reaching 600m in 1:27.57.
She won in 1:58.92 with compatriot Brenda Martinez close behind in 1:59.03 and Lupu grabbing the third automatic qualifying spot in 1:59.43. Russian Ekaterina Poistogova in fourth in 1:59.48 and Lenka Masna of Czech Republic in fifth in 1:59.56 also qualified by time, but Hachlaf, who was close to the leader for a long time, faded to sixth in 2:00.55, missing the final.
The second heat started more conservatively with Belarusian Marina Arzamasova leading the runners through 400m in 60.49. In this heat it was clear that a place in the top three was needed because of the slower place and the final sprint was fierce.
Kenyan Eunice Jepkoech Sum, who clocked 1:30.75 at 600m, kept her lead until the finish line to win in 2:00.70 ahead of Russia’s Olympic champion Mariya Savinova, who also qualified relatively easily in second place in 2:00.73.
Just 19 years old, USA’s World junior champion Ajee Wilson was the surprise performer in third place in 2:00.90, booking her spot in the World Championships final.
Cuban Rose Mary Almanza didn’t make the final in fourth place in 2:00.98 and early leader Arzamasova was fifth in 2:01.19 while the third Russian, Yelena Kotulskaya, went out in 2:01.75.
Briton Marilyn Okoro was seventh in 2:02.26, while Malika Akkaoui, the fastest entrant for Moscow, was eighth in 2:02.29, four-and-a-half seconds adrift of her PB.
The favourites in the final will be US duo Johnson Montano and Martinez, along with, of course, the reigning World and Olympic champion Savinova.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF