The morning session consisted almost entirely of heats with the only exception being the final of the 20km race walk.
Women's 400m Hurdles Heats: World Leader Shamier Little faced a bit of a scare as her struggles over the final hurdle put her .05 seconds from packing her bags. Aside from that near slip-up, all went according to plan in these heats with all the major players advancing to the semi-final. American Cassandra Tate posted the fastest time of the morning heats with a 54.27. Kori Carter joined Little and Tate to qualify for the semi-finals.
Men's 400m Heats: Times were fast across all heats as the Beijing track continues to live up to its reputation as one of, if not the, fastest tracks in the world. All four Americans--Verberg (44.43), Merritt (44.51), Vellum (44.65), and Norwood (45.53)--advanced to tomorrow afternoon's semifinal.
Among all the fast times in the morning two in particular bear mentioning as exceptionally impressive. First was South African Wayde Van Niekerk, who won his heat against solid competition in the form of Chris Brown, Bryshon Vellum, and Renny Quow. Kirani James (Grenada) only ran 44.56 but looked effortless holding off Luguelin Santos to win his heat. He'll look to rebound from a relatively disappointing season by his standards here in the World Championships.
Women's 100m Heats: Fast times continued over here as USA's Tori Bowie opened the first heat with a 10.88 time that was the fastest first round time in the history of the World Championships. That mark ended up being the first of four sub-11 second times in the heats. She was joined by Michelle-Lee Ahye (10.98) in the second heat, and both Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (10.88) and Marie-Josee Ta Lou (10.95) in the 4th heat. Despite Bowie's impressive showing to set the tone, Fraser-Pryce definitely remains the favorite in the event as she looks absolutely effortless in her heat performance.
Dafne Schippers just missed breaking 11, but ran her 11.01 facing more of a headwind than runners in other heats saw. She deserves inclusion in this recap as she made pretty easy work of a respectable heat 5 field.
Like the previous two events, all the American participants--Gardner, Bowie, and Todd--qualified for the semi-finals, making the U.S. 10-for-10 on the night. Add in Joe Kovacs, Christian Cantwell and Reese Hoffa qualifying in the shotput, and America had itself quite a morning.
On Day One, the men's 400m Hurdles offered the biggest surprise when Bershawn Jackson finished 7th in his heat and didn't qualify for the semi-final. In the second heat this afternoon, Johnny Dutch met the same fate, coming in 5th in the second heat. With the Americans flashing uncharacteristic weakness in the 400 hurdles, the door is wide open for Denis Kudryavtsev (RUS) or Boniface Tumuli (KEN) to medal.
Men's 100m: But the focus of the day, not just the afternoon, was always going to be the men's 100m. Heat one of the semi-finals started with a scare as Usain Bolt stumbled severely out of the blocks and had to dig deep into his supreme top-end speed to run 9.96, win his heat, and get through to the finals. All the major contenders advanced to the final as all three of Bomell, Vicaut and Bingtian Su were admitted into the final with their 9.99 times in the semi-finals. The decision to expand the field was made as Vicaut and Su's times were the same down to the thousandth.
The final lived up to all the hype as the Bolt and Gatlin duel was just about as close as it could have been. Both got off to good starts, which, from the start, spelled trouble for Gatlin as the start was his advantage over Bolt. They were basically even for 95 meters before Gatlin stumbled as he was preparing to lean which gave the race to Bolt--9.79 agains 9.80. Before that stumble, it appeared that Gatlin had a slight advantage.
The battle for bronze, as if anyone was truly paying attention to it, was every bit as exciting as the race for first. Trayvon Bromell and Andre De Grasse tied at 9.911 and were both awarded bronze. De Grasse was surging on Bromell over the last 10 meters or so, but not quite enough to fully overtake Bromell.
Of course the British commentators declared Bolt's victory a victory for the sport after the race. Besides being overly dramatic, which is simply par for the course for commentators, the comment is flat-out wrong. A diminished Usain Bolt running 9.79 does not save the sport over an athlete who emerged as a legitimate challenger and has proven to be as clean as anyone else in that field.
What Justin Gatlin did this season to continue his comeback from his suspension at his age and emerge as the best 100m runner in the world for pretty much the entire season is incredible for the sport. It shows that the process of suspension, testing, and reinstatement is not a death sentence for a runner. The process works and Gatlin proves it.
Men's 800m Semifinal: The 800m semifinals prove to be the most dramatic of the afternoon. The first heat got things started when Kszczot, Kipketer, Aman, and Bosse all finished within .05 seconds of each other, putting Aman at the mercy of other heats to get in on time. It appeared that he had, but then an announcement came through that he had been DQ'd. Then, in the second heat, Nigel Amos was eliminated when he came in 3rd (1:47.96) in a slower second heat. The third heat became a head-to-head duel between Amel Tuka and Ferguson Rotich. Tuka got the win on the lean, but both looked strong look to be viable challengers to Rudisha's throne. However, without Aman and Amos, Rudisha has to be feeling pretty confident heading into the final.
Women's 1500m: The 1500m finally gave us a nice, relaxing trial in which every contender makes it through safely. Sifan Hassan won the first heat, which was the more tactical of the two, in 4:15.38 and hopes to challenge Dibaba in the final. Recall that she was right with Dibaba until 300m to go during the latter's World Record performance in Monaco. Shannon Rowbury snuck in as the last automatic qualifier out of the first heat.
The second heat featured perhaps a better field than the first with Dibaba, Simpson, Muir, and Tomashova all fighting to advance. Dibaba won the heat, of course. Jenny Simpson looked strong in her 5th place finish and might have more in the tank. After Dibaba and Hassan, the race figures to be for Bronze between Simpson, Rowbury, Muir, and Tomashova. Hopefully that competition sparks some trash-talking between Simpson and Rowbury similar to that that followed Rowbury's American Record performance in Monaco.