Stephenie Ann McPherson in the 400m semis in Birmingham (© Getty Images)
Shakima Wimbley and Courtney Okolo traveled to Birmingham as the fastest two athletes in the field and the USA duo both won their respective 400m semi finals to keep alive the possibility of an American 1-2 in the event.
Indeed, following the disqualification of Switzerland’s Lea Sprunger, unbeaten in 2018 prior to these championships and the winner of the IAAF World Indoor Tour, that possibility became a likelihood.
Wimbley took the first of three races in similar fashion to her heat win earlier in the day, springing from the blocks and running hard through the first 200m in a sprightly 24.15.
Sprunger tracked the 22-year-old all the way, but the American crossed in 51.34 and never really looked troubled.
The Swiss athlete looked to have secured the second qualifying spot but was subsequently disqualified, meaning that Great Britain’s 2015 European indoor champion Eilidh Doyle qualified with 52.15.
There was more drama in the second semi final, as Jamaica’s Stephanie Ann McPherson hit the front at the break and led Doyle’s British teammate Zoey Clarke by two metres down the back straight.
McPherson looked to have sealed the win comfortably, while Clarke was overhauled in the final metres by the fast-finishing Justyna Swiety-Ersetic of Poland, losing out on second place by three one-thousandths of a second, both clocking 52.63.
Yet McPherson’s break was subsequently judged to have been early, meaning both Clarke and Swiety-Ersetic progressed, the latter making her third consecutive world indoor final.
In the final semi final, 23-year-old Okolo again found herself drawn alongside Greece’s Maria Belimpasaki. Once more the Greek athlete surged hard at the break, but Okolo, as in her earlier first round race, did enough to take the lead at the bell and cantered round the second lap with apparent ease to win in 51.79.
Behind her, Belimpasaki did well to hold off Tovea Jenkins of Jamaica, but she too found herself on the wrong side of the officials’ judgments, meaning that it will be the Jamaican who contests Saturday’s final.
Dean Hardman for the IAAF