By Ian Chadband
LONDON (Reuters) – Kendra Harrison returned to the London track where she broke the world record last year to breeze impressively into the semi-finals of the 100 meters hurdles at the World Athletics Championships on Friday.
The 24-year-old American, unbeaten since failing to qualify for the Olympics, is determined to make amends for missing out last year and looked as if she will take some beating as she won her opening round heat in the fastest time, 12.60 seconds.
Despite clipping the second hurdle, she swept to a comfortable victory in a time that was four-tenths of a second slower than the record of 12.20 she set in the London Stadium last year, soon after failing at the U.S. Olympic trials.
“Winning definitely builds confidence, this round is about getting my legs ready. I’ll come back, run fast and get ready for the finals,” Harrison said afterwards.
Australian Sally Pearson, another athlete with happy memories of this stadium, also looked sharp in the arena where she won the Olympic title in 2012, winning her heat in the third fastest time, 12.72 seconds.
After leading home another Olympic champion, the 2008 winner American Dawn Harper Nelson, who also qualified for Friday evening’s semi-finals in 12.88, Pearson reflected on her resurgent form after being unable to defend her Olympic title in Rio through injury.
“I was really, really nervous today because it’s been a long time since I’ve been on a championship team,” Pearson said.
“When you go through those difficult moments, you retire about 100 times over and over. But there’s something deep down inside of you knows you’ve got that bit more to give.”
After their clean sweep of the medals at the Olympics, even without Harrison, the U.S. hurdlers feel they could emulate that achievement with Harper Nelson, Olympic silver medalist Nia Ali and heat winner Christina Manning also qualifying easily.
Yet Pearson and Jamaica’s reigning champion Danielle Williams, who won her heat as second fastest qualifier in 12.66, will have a say about that prospect.
Trinidad and Tobago hurdler Deborah John had to be carried away on a stretcher after receiving medical attention on the track for 10 minutes following a bad fall at the fifth hurdle in the final heat.
Medical officials later reported that she was fine after treatment.
(Reporting by Ian Chadband; Editing by Toby Davis)