Athletics

Oscar qualifies for semis

2011-08-28 09:13
Oscar Pistorius (Gallo)
Daegu - A milestone run by double-amputee Oscar Pistorius saw the South African steal the limelight at the Athletics World Championships on Sunday, although Usain Bolt is certain to snatch it back later in the blue riband 100 metres.

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Pole vault queen Yelena Isinbayeva was in early action and Chinese high hurdler Liu Xiang shed years of injury misery with a commanding performance but both members of the track and field aristocracy were put in the shadows by the man who runs on carbon-fibre prosthetics.

At some visceral level, Pistorius redefined the concept of athletic achievement in 45.39 magical seconds which will stay with those fortunate enough to witness it.

It was a pity only around 10 000 spectators scattered around the cavernous Daegu stadium witnessed the first amputee to race at a world championships qualify for the 400 metres semifinals.

Those who did were rewarded with a memorable mental postcard and they roared the 24-year-old round the track, waving placards and screaming him home.

"Being here has been a goal I have had for many years," the South African said. "I have worked extremely hard to be here and it has been phenomenal to run today.

"It has been a lot of pressure... and there is a lot of work for tomorrow."

Pistorius qualified 14th fastest overall. The fastest qualifier was defending champion LaShawn Merritt, who only returned to competition last month following a 21-month ban for doping. Merritt's 44.35 run was the fastest of the year.

The first gold medal of Day Two, and the only one decided in the morning session, went to Russia's Valeriy Borchin in the men's 20km walk through Daegu's manicured streets.

Borchin triumphed in humid conditions ahead of compatriot Vladimir Kanaykin, while Luis Fernando Lopez celebrated after his bronze gave Colombia its first world championships medal.

"For me, this bronze medal feels like a gold," Lopez said. "This medal shows that Colombia can dream of becoming a better country."

In the 110 metres hurdles heats, Liu looked like the world and Olympic champion he once was and remained on track for a star-studded showdown with American David Oliver and reigning Olympic gold medallist Dayron Robles, who both also eased into the semifinals in Daegu.

"It was just the qualification so it was okay," the 2007 world champion and former record holder told reporters. "I'm relaxed and surprised at the results. I think it will take 13 seconds or better to win."

Oliver, unbeaten in 18 successive finals until beaten by Liu in Shanghai earlier this year, was a picture of calm confidence after easing through his heat.

"I ran pretty easy today," he told reporters. "Really didn't try to press or do anything. I think I ran pretty good. As long as I keep doing that and run a little faster, I'll be straight.

"I'm already living a dream. I'm not even supposed to be doing this. I'm supposed to be circulating that resume by now. I didn't go to school to be no track star, didn't think about being a track star. It's all a big dream for me."

Sunday night sees Briton Mo Farah hoping to hand Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele his first defeat at 10 000m and break Africa's dominance over the distance.

Olympic and world champion Bekele has not raced since early 2010, after he ruptured a calf muscle and a series of other injuries kept him out of action.

He says he is feeling good, however, and if he wins in Daegu he will become the first runner at any distance to win five consecutive outdoor world titles.

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