Following the heroics of Wayde van Niekerk in the Men’s 400m flat two nights ago, the 400m action returned last night in Rio, this time with the addition of hurdles. Van Niekerk smashed past Michael Johnson’s former 400m record to win gold, drawing the attention of many to the beauty of the 400m.
Last night the women’s 400m hurdles began, as the first round of heats determined the line-up for tonight’s semi-final’s. Six heats took place, in which the fastest 24 athletes proceeded to the semi-final, equating to the top three of each heat plus the six fastest outside of the top three overall.
Tracey impresses as Antyukh is forced to watch from home
The fastest in the qualifiers was Jamaican 400m hurdler, Ristananna Tracey. Tracey was the only athlete in the first round to run sub-55 seconds, as she clocked in with the fastest time of 54.88s.
The 24-year-old athlete has represented Jamaica in the past three World Championships competitions, but is yet to receive her first World/Olympic medal.
Tracey made the semi-finals in the previous two World Championships, leaving her out of contention for a medal. She may well be in for a medal this time around in a major competition, in the absence of current Olympic champion, Natalya Antyukh.
Antyukh claimed the gold medal at London 2012, however was controversially given no chance to attempt to retain her medal due the Russian ban from Athletics in Rio. Russian athletes were banned from Rio 2016 due to the hundreds of exposed cases of doping, leaving Antyukh in despair as her Olympic title will be in new hands.
Hejnova runs strong in round one
The challenge is still well and truly there for all athletes in the field, as current back-to-back World Champion, Zuzana Hejnova ran well in the first round to book her spot in the semi-finals. Hejnova is a runner capable of running within 52 seconds, a frightening competitor who looks to be holding her full potential back for the upcoming semi-finals.
Hejnova finished 6th overall in the first round, running 55.54s, earning her automatic qualification for the semi’s as she finished second in her heat to the impressive show from Tracey. In the overall standings, Tracey was followed closely overall by America’s Ashley Spencer, who ran an impressive 55.12s, winning heat 3.
Doyle secures her place in the Semi-Final
Finishing above Hejnova in the overall standings was Great Britain’s Eilidh Doyle. The Scottish hurdler registered a time of 55.46s in her heat, as she emerged as the winner of heat 6.
Despite having a significantly slower personal best to others in contention for a medal, Doyle is renowned for her tremendous hurdling style, as she so commonly completes a fluent run over the 400m. There is no doubt that 29-year-old Doyle has the potential to be amongst the medals in Rio, it will be interesting to see just how fast she can go when matched up with elite competition.
The semi-final’s take place tonight in Rio, as the attention of the athletes will firmly be on securing one of the 8 final spots up for grabs.