With heavy rain falling at the start of the evening session, the women’s 400m hurdles heats were delayed by 20 minutes. Thankfully the conditions settled, the track dried up, and the heats got underway.
Despite having only just turned 17, USA’s Sydney McLaughlin had the fastest season’s best of all the athletes in the first heat but most of the other athletes – in particular two-time world champion Zuzana Hejnova and Jamaica’s Ristananna Tracey – had significantly more experience.
McLaughlin was level with Hejnova and Tracey in the first half of their heat. The latter two began to pull ahead in the second half, though, as McLaughlin was starting to fade. Tracey charged down the home straight to open up a gap on Hejnova, crossing the line in 54.88. Hejnova followed in 55.54 while Italian teenager Ayomide Folorunso came through to take the third automatic qualifying spot in 55.78.
Denmark’s Stine Troest passed a fading McLaughlin in the closing stages, but their respective times of 56.06 and 56.32 were eventually enough to advance.
Jamaica’s Janeive Russell, winner at the IAAF Diamond League meetings in Rome and Rabat, was the favourite in the second heat, but she hadn’t raced for more than two months due to a minor mid-season injury.
Russell and Tia-Adana Belle of Barbados shared a comfortable lead coming into the home straight with Russell edging ahead slightly. Poland’s Joanna Linkiewicz then came charging down the home straight to take the heat win in 56.07. Russell was second in 56.13 while Puerto Rico’s Grace Claxton took third place in 56.40.
USA’s Ashley Spencer and Jamaica’s Leah Nugent were closely followed by Lea Sprunger over the first few flights of barriers in the third heat. Nugent opened up a lead before half way, but Spencer came back at her over the penultimate barrier before going on to win in 55.12.
Nugent crossed the line in second place in 55.66. She then discovered that she had been disqualified for a trail leg violation, but she was later reinstated. Ukraine’s Viktoriya Tkachuk took the third qualifying spot in 56.14.
Occasional training partners Sara Slott Petersen of Denmark and Wenda Nel on South Africa were the top qualifiers from the fourth heat. European champion Petersen was a convincing winner in 55.20 while Nel ran a well-controlled race from lane one to finish second in 55.55.
Much like her similarly-named compatriot in heat two, Poland’s Emilia Ankiewicz finished strongly to take third spot in 55.89.
It was then the turn of world leader and pre-event favourite Dalilah Muhammad in heat five.
The US hurdler did not disappoint, quickly opening up a one-second lead over the first three hurdles and maintaining it to the end, winning in 55.33. Canada’s Noelle Montcalm was second in 56.07 with Ukraine’s Anna Titimets taking third in 56.24.
Britain’s medal hope Eilidh Doyle dominated the sixth and final heat, running a controlled race to win in 55.46. Canada’s Sage Watson was a clear second, clocking 55.93, while Ukraine’s Olena Kolesnychenko was further back in third with 56.61.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF