x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Richards stays motivated

American Sanya Richards and Britain's Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu renewed their rivalry as they went head to head in the women's 400m heats.

USA's Sanya Richards eases through her heat yesterday.
USA's Sanya Richards eases through her heat yesterday.

American Sanya Richards and Britain's Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu renewed their rivalry as they went head to head in the women's 400m heats. Richards, who Ohuruogu outpaced at the Beijing Games, edged home first as the two runners were seeded in the same 400m heat, but both eased into today's semi-finals at the IAAF World Athletics Championships.

"That rarely happens and I was happy she was there," Richards said. "It gave me a little extra motivation in the first round - that's sometimes needed." Although she has been the undisputed world-leading performer over the distance for the last four years, the American still has to reinforce that accolade by winning a major championship title. Richards failed to qualify for a place in the USA team for the worlds two years ago because of sickness and that was followed by the unexpected defeat in the Bird's Nest stadium 12 months ago. That has made Richards, who was runner-up in 2005, even more determined to finally win a gold medal at global level.

Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay, the world's two best sprinters, meanwhile whetted the appetite for a mouth-watering showdown yesterday, when both cruised through their opening 100m heats. Gay, suffering from a tight groin, won his heat in 10.16secs - a long way off his 9.77secs season's best - while Bolt, who slowed up well before the tape, won his heat in 10.20secs. "It is little bit sore, but it's OK," said Gay. "I hadn't been in the blocks in the past few days, so I just had to get the kinks out," added the American.

Bolt, typically cool and relaxed, did not speak after the race - the Jamaican's emphatic arms to the sky gesture his only moment of reflection. Bolt's compatriot, Asafa Powell, nearly became the first big-name casualty. The former world record holder eased up far too early and only squeezed through his heat as the third and final guaranteed qualifier. British trio Dwayne Chambers, Simeon Williamson and Tyrone Edgar also qualified for the quarter-finals. Chambers set the second fastest time in qualifying, running 10.18secs.

"I had to get my mind right and I'm pleased to get my first round out of the way," said Chambers. "I'll have to step it up when I'm up against the big guns, but my mind is in the right place to do that." emegson@thenational.ae