Usain Bolt wins his 200m semi-final from Anaso Jobodwana at the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015 (© Getty Images)
If anyone thought that Usain Bolt had already faced his toughest test of the championships, the 200m semi-finals suggested that his most difficult challenge is yet to come.
There was unprecedented depth across the three races; before today the fastest time never to make a World Championships 200m final was 20.25. Twelve men ran faster than that here in Beijing, but only eight made it to the final.
Drawn in lane seven in the third and last semi-final, Bolt was already in the lead by the time he entered the home straight. He visibly eased off with half of the straight left to run, but the rest of the field were still unable to catch him.
The 100m champion crossed the line in a season’s best of 19.95, the first time he has run faster than 20 seconds in a global championships semi-final.
South Africa’s Anaso Jobodwana, one lane inside Bolt, was the Jamaican’s nearest challenger, finishing second in a PB of 20.01. Turkey’s Ramil Guliyev came through for third in 20.10, which was good enough to grab the last automatic qualifying spot.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Miguel Francis, meanwhile, had the unfortunate distinction of running the fastest time never to make a World Championships final, clocking 20.14 to finish fourth.
That time would have been enough to win the first heat. Britain’s Zharnel Hughes ran the exact same time, 20.14, to finish 0.05 in front of Jamaica’s Nickel Ashmeade. In a close finish, Churandy Martina of the Netherlands was just 0.01 behind Ashmeade, but the overall high standard meant that it wasn’t enough to progress further.
Among the others missing out on making the final from this semi-final was Greece’s Likourgos-Stefanos Tsakonas, 2011 world bronze medallist Christophe Lemaitre and 2013 world silver medallist Warren Weir.
Justin Gatlin, the 100m silver medallist, produced the fastest time of the round, though he appeared to be putting in more effort than Bolt. The US sprinter won the second semi-final in 19.87 to win comfortably from 2009 world silver medallist Alonso Edward of Panama, 20.02.
Qatar’s Femi Ogunode set a national record of 20.05 to grab the first of two non-automatic qualifying spots. World youth champion Abdul Hakim Sani Brown clocked a solid 20.47 for fifth place, beating athletes up to 12 years older than him.
The final takes place on Thursday (27) with the three semi-final winners – Gatlin, Hughes and Bolt – drawn in lanes four, five and six respectively. The pressure will be on again; can the lightning Bolt strike twice?
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF