Allyson Felix of the United States started her bid for a record ninth world title by breezing through the 200ms heats at the World Championships on Thursday.
The 2012 Olympic 200m champion Felix won her heat in 22.59 seconds at the sparsely-filled Luzhniki stadium on an overcast, cool morning.
“It was nice to finally go out there. I was pacing comfortably,” said the 27-year-old.
Felix, 27, won the 200m three times in a row between 2005 and 2009. She also has five relay titles plus a silver and bronze, and tops the all-time list along with Carl Lewis with a haul of 8-1-1.
More in store
Another gold on Friday, provided she gets through the semifinals earlier that day, would put her on top. Felix can also add further silverware in the 4x100m and 4x400m relays during the weekend.
Felix had to settle for bronze at the 2011 worlds which Veronica Campbell-Brown won, but the Jamaican has been suspended after failing a doping test and is not competing here.
Felix’s biggest rival is expected to be 100m champion and 200m season leader Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica (she had a 22.78s timing on Thursday), whom the American denied an Olympic sprint double last year.
Another American Kimberlyn Duncan (22.84), long jump silver medallist Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria (22.79) and 100m silver medallist Murielle Ahoure (22.66) are also in the fray.
“I tried to execute my race as best as I could. I will have to step it up a little bit in the next round. I am ready,” said Duncan, who beat Felix at the recent US trials.
Elsewhere, Russian world and Olympic champions Mariya Savinova (800m) and Anna Chicherova (high jump) advanced to the semifinals and final respectively amid loud cheers from the small group of fans.
Both face American rivals, with Brenda Martinez leading the 800m heats with 1m 59.39s and Brigetta Barrett also safely into the high jump final scheduled for Saturday.
“I don’t think there is a clear favourite. Everything will depend on who is less nervous in the final,” said Chicherova, who hopes to soar to gold just as Russian pole vault queen Yelena Isinbayeva did on Tuesday. “Of course I saw Isinbayeva’s performance. It was very inspiring. She did it so beautifully, so gracefully, she was so calm.”
Majewski, Storl qualify
Two-time Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski of Poland and defending champion David Storl of Germany qualified for Friday’s shot put final.
But, Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad and Tobago failed to make Saturday’s javelin final while Norway’s Andreas Thorkildsen went through and seeks a medal at a fifth straight worlds.