O'Rourke in the driving seat after plum draw
A GOOD semi-final draw means Derval O'Rourke will know exactly what she needs to do when she steps into her blocks in Daegu this morning (11.31am Irish time) bidding to make yet another global final.
The irrepressible Leevale hurdler, who was a comfortable second in yesterday's heats, will start from lane five in the last of today's semi-finals and, apart from American Danielle Carruthers, all the rest of sprint hurdling's current big guns will already have run.
With just two automatic qualifiers plus the two fastest losers, O'Rourke can't afford any errors if she is to repeat her heroics from Berlin two years ago, when she finished fourth in the world despite an injury-wracked build-up.
O'Rourke reckons she will need to run 12.7 seconds to make today's final (1.0pm), which will require a substantial improvement on the pedestrian 13.07 she ran in her heat.
But O'Rourke still came home well clear of third (13.23) and, intelligently, did not get dragged into a flat-out battle with Australia's Sally Pearson, who burnt up the track unnecessarily with a 12.53 opener, clearly to lay down a marker.
The 2008 Olympic silver medallist only managed fifth in Berlin two years ago, behind O'Rourke, but was injured then and her form all season (including a 12.48) has been imperious. It already looks like everyone else will be running for silver and bronze.
In 2009, O'Rourke was second in her heat and third in her semi-final (in 12.73). The same trajectory will get her through again, but only if she substantially improves her 12.84 season's best and pulls off her trademark trick of producing her best times on big days.
Tiffany Porter, an American who switched allegiance to Britain this year and has run 12.60, is in O'Rourke's semi-final as is defending champion Brigitte Foster-Hylton, whose form has been patchy, but Carruthers has already run 12.50 this year.
A half-hour earlier, O'Rourke's regular championship room-mate Deirdre Ryan marks her own milestone, stepping out among the top 12 in the world for the high jump final (11.0am).
The rangey DSD star -- based in Germany since 2008 -- leapt to a new Irish record of 1.95m to get here and is finally where she has fought so hard to be -- among the discipline's elite women. It will be a fascinating competition, in which Russia's Anna Chicherova may finally topple hip-wiggling Croat Blanka Vlasic, who is carrying a bad injury.
Ireland's third finalist today, and the second from Leevale, marks a huge achievement for himself, his club and 'home' coach Der O'Donovan.
Two text-book runs have put Ciaran O'Lionaird (23) through to the 1500m final (12.15pm).
He ran the fourth fastest time by an Irishman this summer (3:34.46), but may have to take up the pace because he will not want to get involved in a last 200m dust-up with kickers like France's Mehdi Baala or Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop, who is bidding to become the first Kenyan ever to win this title, even though the last non-African to win it was Steve Cram back in 1983.
Ireland's 4x400m women's team of Marian Andrews-Heffernan, Joanne Cuddihy, Claire Bergin and Michelle Carey lowered the Irish record of 3:30.11 to 3:27.48 to boost their Olympic qualification hopes when fourth (12th overall) in yesterday's semi-finals, but Paul Hession -- a regular semi-finalist at this level -- failed to get through the 200m heats.
He is a 20.30 man with a season's best of 20.51, but he finished fourth in 21.02 and needed 20.70 to get through.
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