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All eyes on Fraser-Pryce after Bolt heroics

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Shelly-Ann Fraiser

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica prepares to compete in her women’s 100 metres heat at the 15th IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium in Beijing, China. PHOTO/ Reuters.

BEIJING, August 24 – After the high-octane hullabaloo of Usain Bolt’s triumphant return to the world track, Monday’s morning session settled back into the more mundane, but essential, rhythm of qualifiers.

Bolt floored American rival Justin Gatlin for gold in the 100m on Sunday, sending a packed Bird’s Nest into raptures as the Jamaican defended his title and reaffirmed his standing as the world’s fastest man.

It is Bolt’s Jamaican teammate Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce who will take centre stage in the evening session in Beijing, the double Olympic champion seeking to capture an unprecedented world 100m treble.

The pint-sized sprinter, competing with her long hair braided and dyed green and topped off by a garland of yellow flowers, will face a stiff examination by American Tori Bowie, English Gardner, Nigerian Blessing Okagbare, Jamaican teammate Veronica Campbell-Brown and Dutchwoman Dafne Schippers.

Meanwhile, France’s Renaud Lavillenie, the Olympic champion and world record holder, will bid to end his world championship hoodoo in the men’s pole vault and Colombian Caterine Ibarguen will be the one to beat in the women’s triple jump.

There were no dramas in the subdued morning session, Tunisian Habiba Ghribi setting the fastest qualifying time in the women’s 3000m steeplechase to underline her status as favourite.

“I am ready to gain the victory, but I need to make sure I feel good and ready for the final,” said Ghribi, silver medallist at the London Olympics and the 2011 Daegu worlds.

“The Diamond League in Monaco helped me with my self-confidence and consolidated me on my way to the global title,” she said of an impressive victorious outing in the European principality last month.

All the main favourites safely negotiated round one of the women’s 400m, notably Britain’s defending champion Christine Ohuruogu, champion in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and silver medallist in London.

 

She was accompanied by the strong American trio of Phyllis Francis, Allyson Felix and Natasha Hastings and the Jamaican quartet of Stephenie Ann McPherson, the fastest qualifier, Shericka Jackson, Christine Day and Novlene Williams-Mills.

American Jeff Henderson and Britain’s defending Olympic champion Greg Rutherford were the sole automatic qualifiers in the men’s long jump, jumping 8.36 and 8.25m respectively.

Defending world champion Aleksandr Menkhov of Russia also made the cut along with a trio of Chinese jumpers, Jianan Wang, Xinglong Gao and Jinzhe Li.

“Qualification is literally all about getting to the final,” said Rutherford, whose gold medal-winning in exploits in London in 2012 came on the same day as Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis-Hill in one of Britain’s most memorable nights of track and field.

“We will need to show a big performance over 8.50m to fight for gold. Jeff Henderson will attack it for sure.”

Rutherford said he had taken heart from watching Ennis-Hill seal heptathlon gold after a year out to start a family.

“Watching Jessica winning yesterday, it was just inspiring, fighting with all the expectations and pressure,” he said. “Just awesome.”

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