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Allyson Felix said after the semi-finals of the women’s 200m at the world championships that she was stronger than last year, and felt capable of doing better in the final than she had in the Olympic Games. Since the American won silver in Athens last summer behind Veronica Campbell of Jamaica, the implication was clear. And so it proved.
Campbell shot away and Christine Arron of France achieved the start she should have done in the 100m. But Felix clawed back the deficit and forged ahead with 30m to run. Campbell folded and, ultimately, so did Arron, losing second place on the line to Rachel Boone-Smith of the US.
Felix won in 22.16sec, with Boone-Smith and Arron both running 22.31sec, and Campbell fourth in 22.38sec.
This meant US sprinters had annexed all four individual sprint titles, with the men taking an unprecedented first four places in the 200m on Thursday. A recipe, one might have thought, for utter dominance in the relays. But history teaches us otherwise.
It seems there is still life for the television makeover programme on the evidence of the heats of the men’s 4x100m relay; one that would be guaranteed endless re-runs on worldwide sports channels. It could be called “Changing Batons”. It is the traditional tale of four of the fastest men in the world, decked out in the Stars and Stripes, who, because of some inherent flaw in the national character, call it individualism or whatever you like, are incapable of getting a small piece of aluminium from hand to hand round a 400m track.
The US squad did not even manage the first changeover last night, reserve lead-off man Mardy Scales and 100m finalist Leonard Scott combining to give the show the comedy edge that we have long come to expect from US television series.
When the US team lost the plot at last year’s Olympics, Britain took advantage to win, but the only way that is going to happen here is if Mark Lewis-Francis is replaced. The team finished second fastest of the heats, but Lewis-Francis conceded far too much of a lead to Darrel Brown of Trinidad on the final leg.
Yuriy Borzakowskiy, the Olympic 800m champion, gave an impressive performance in his semi-final of that event. He was always in control of a race that included the new world 1500m champion Raschid Ramzi of Bahrain and defending champion Djabir Saïd-Guerni of Algeria. Gary Reid of Canada and Wilfrid Bungei looked the best of the others who advanced to tomorrow’s final, and it should be one of the best races of the championships.
If by some misadventure the British relay squad do not take a medal, then the onus falls even harder on Paula Radcliffe. Her physiotherapist Gerald Hartmann has little doubt of her marathon prospects on Sunday, saying: “She can win by two minutes.” Two seconds would be enough, but probably not enough for the national pulse rate.
Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia, meanwhile, set another world record in taking the women's pole-vault title, clearing 5.01m.