BEIJING-There was no suspense for the US entries in Round 1 of the women’s 100 meter dash late last night (ET). All three Americans easily advanced with Torri Edwards leading all qualifiers, clocking 11.26 seconds in the first heat. Muna Lee won Heat 3 in 11.33 and Lauryn Williams finished second in Heat 2 in 11.37. There may be no better runner than Williams when it comes to building momentum through qualifying rounds. She always rises to the occasion and, usually, the medal podium in major championship meets with multiple rounds.
“The rounds make a difference,” said Williams. “You work your kinks out, play it smart and go full force in the final.”
Meanwhile, Muna Lee’s coached asked her to take a slightly different approach running from Lane 8 in Round 1.
“It was hard being in the eighth, but, whatever, it doesn’t really matter what lane you’re in,” said Lee. “Coach just wanted me to go out and blast the beginning and it worked. If I had gone out too easy, it would have been hard to finish. I just wanted to get my body used to [going fast].”
Muna Lee should benefit from more experience than she had competing in the 200 at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
“I’m not as nervous as the last time, or as star struck,” said Lee. “Running all the rounds in college, that prepared me for this.”
In other qualifying heats, steeplechaser Anthony Famiglietti advanced to the final running a personal best 8:17.34 and the third fastest time of the day. Americans Josh McAdams (8:33.26) and Billy Nelson (8:36.66) failed to reach the final.
“There is always someone that goes down under the pressure,” said Famiglietti. “In Athens, that was me. This time, I got it out of my way and ran my personal best. I had more in the tank, but I just didn’t want to run the last few meters hard.”
In the first round of the women’s 400, Sanya Richards looked incredibly comfortable running 50.54, which was easily the fastest qualifying time to come out of the 400 heats. In fact, she looked like she might be ready to run 49. Fellow Americans Mary Wineberg qualified in 51.46 by finishing second in Heat 3 and Deedee Trotter qualified on time running 51.41 in the first heat.
“I felt pretty good,” said Richards. “I ran the first 200 well, which is what I wanted to do…I never care about time. I wanted to run as easy as possible. I thought I was right around 51 [seconds]. So, I was surprised to see 50. That’s great. [The next round] is going to be tough.”
In the women’s pole vault, there were some strange demands made during the warm-ups. Chinese officials limited the competitors to one jump at 13-feet-1-inch. Normally, pole vaulters take a handful of practice jumps at a height they choose. For US champion and gold medal contender Jennifer Stuczynski, a normal warm-up consists of five jumps at 15-feet-1-inch. Many of the pole vaulters were thrown off by the warm-up system dictated by the officials, and communication difficulties meant they could not clear up the issue in time.
“It wasn’t pretty, but that’s all it took,” said Stuczynski of the 4.50 meter (14.8 feet) jump that qualified her for the Final. “It started out in warm-ups. They had a strategic way they wanted to run it. It was a battle out there to get warmed up with one bar height and one jump.”
Stuczynski added that she will look at her performance in the qualifier on tape and decide what adjustments she needs to make for the finals to compete with world record holder Elena Isinbaeva. Just how good is Isinabaeva? She had no problem taking a nap before she jumped to qualify with the top mark of 4.60 meters (15.1 feet).
“I had to,” said Isinbaeva of the power nap. “Otherwise, there is nothing to do.”
Finally, while race walkers don’t get much attention, silver medalist in the men’s 20K Jefferson Perez caused a frenzy when he collapsed in the mixed zone. He was taken for medical attention and reappeared looking fine. American Kevin Eastler of Farmington, Maine finished 43 out of 51 in the 20K walk in 1:28.44.