By Brian Homewood
LONDON (Reuters) – Titleholder Sergey Shubenkov, competing as a neutral after the Russian federation’s ban from athletics, squeezed into the men’s 110 metres hurdles final as one of the fastest losers in the semi-finals at the World Championships on Sunday.
Shubenkov finished third behind Olympic champion Omar McLeod and Frenchmen Garfield Darien but his time of 13.22 was good enough to take him into Monday’s final.
World record holder Aries Merritt, battling back to form after a kidney transplant two years ago, also qualified after finishing second in his heat behind Hungarian Balazs Baji who won in 13.26.
Merritt won bronze at the World Championships two years ago and days later underwent a kidney transplant operation. The 32-year-old just failed to qualify for the Olympics.
The other heat ended with four athletes diving for the line, separated by a mere two hundredths of a second.
Barbadian Shane Brathwaite won in 13.26 ahead of Hansle Parchment of Jamaica while American Devon Allen and Briton Andrew Pozzi, who won his previous heat impressively, missed out by a whisker.
Cuban-born Spanish runner Orlando Ortega, Olympic silver medallist last year, was the other to qualify as a fastest loser in 13.23.
Shubenkov, who missed last year’s Olympics because of the ban on the Russian federation from the sport in the wake of a doping scandal, was cleared to compete as a neutral by the IAAF’s doping review board in April.
He is one of 19 Russians competing in London as neutrals after satisfying the board that they have been training in an environment that passes the necessary anti-doping requirements.
(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Neil Robinson)