Dawn Harper-Nelson won the Olympic gold medal on the track at Beijing’s National Stadium, and she’ll be one of four American women competing in the semifinals of the 100-meter hurdles at the World Championships on Friday. Harper-Nelson, the 2011 bronze medalist who was fourth in 2013, posted a 12.79 in Thursday’s first round, the fifth fastest.
“I was thinking, do not false start,” Harper-Nelson said. “Yesterday we had some hiccups coming out of the blocks, that’s why I was smiling crossing the finish line. Now, on to the semifinals, it’s about executing. If you came here with a certain time or ranking, that means you’re ready to go, and since Nationals, it’s about maintaining that. I said, ‘physically, you’re ready to go, mentally, don’t get caught up in it.’ I expected this (four U.S. women advancing). Somehow, we, the women’s 100-meter hurdles are very mentally tough.”
Harper-Nelson may be the two-time reigning U.S. champion, but the fastest time in the world this season belongs to teammate Sharika Nelvis (12.34). The 25-year-old from Arkansas State was 13th with a time of 12.93 in the first round.
“The first five were OK, the second five were a bit messy,” Nelvis said of the hurdles. “You never know what will happen, I’m glad I made it to the semifinals. It’s going to be a really good race in the finals.”
Defending champion Brianna Rollins of the U.S. was the quickest on Thursday at 12.67 seconds, and with Brittney Reese failing to qualify in the long jump, she is the lone remaining female gold medalist from the 2013 Moscow Worlds for the Americans. Kendra Harrison, the 22-year-old, was 11th at 12.90 seconds.
“There were nerves in the air,” said Harrison, who owns the fourth-fastest time in the world this season. “It’s not the fastest I’ve run, but I made it through to the second round, and I’ll be more poised there.”
Both the semifinals and finals are Friday, beginning with three heats of eight runners. Also advancing were Team GB’s Tiffany Porter in 12.73 (the European champion and defending bronze medalist), Danielle Williams and Shermaine Williams of Jamaica, and Nikkita Holder of Canada.
Fedrick Dacres, age 21, of Jamaica is the leader after qualifying for the men’s discus at 65.77 meters, with defending silver medalist Poland’s Piotr Malachowski second at 65.59. Americans Russ Winger (58.69) and Jared Schuurmans (57.74) did not advance. Winger won the bronze medal at the Pan-American Games in Toronto last month, behind the winner Dacres.
“I didn’t hit any clean throws today,” Winger said. “It’s a long process, my first trip to the World Championships, and it would have been nice to hit one of those throws, the power was there. Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want, so I made a career getting lots of experience, but this is a great step in the right direction for me, I made a coaching change, a lifestyle change, I got married this year, not living in training centers anymore, so I’m getting my life together.”