In-form American Fred Kerley fired out a warning shot to rivals for the men’s world 100m crown with a sensational heat-winning 9.79 seconds in round 1 in Eugene, Oregon, on Friday.
Kerley, who set a world lead of 9.76sec when winning the US trials on the same Hayward Field track o go eighth in the all-time fastest list, had a slick start and cruised through the line without seeming to break sweat.
If Kerley underlined his status as favourite for the blue riband event, three other Americans won their heats to raise the prospect of a third-ever cleansweep at the world championships.
Marvin Bracey won his heat in 10.05sec before Trayvon Bromell clocked a rapid 9.89sec, both sprinters basking in the partisan support.
Then came the turn of defending champion Christian Coleman, who missed the Tokyo Olympics after missing three doping tests.
Coleman eased up well before the line, clocking 10.08sec ahead of Olympic 200m champion Andre de Grasse of Canada, also a two-time Olympic 100m bronze medallist.
De Grasse pegged Kerley as a good bet in what he dubbed “a good era for track and field right now”, with the Americans, Jamaicans and others running fast.
“It’s going to take something fast to win,” the Canadian said.
“Kerley has no pressure. He’s a 400m runner who dropped down to the 100 and 200, he’s having fun. A lot of us have been doing it for a long time, it’s natural for him.”
“He has that 400m strength as well, that’s helping him get that top-end speed.”
But De Grasse insisted: “It’s anybody’s race. Everyone’s competitive, you never know who’s going to win.”
Jamaica will be represented in Saturday’s semi-finals by Oblique Seville, who clocked a heat-winning 9.93sec, and 2011 world champion Yohan Blake.
– Not at 100% –
Reigning Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs of Italy, a shock winner in Tokyo who has struggled with injury this season, advanced on the coattails of Seville.
Jacobs admitted he had struggled.
“I am not at my 100%,” the Italian said.
“Running 10.04 at half capacity of what I can run, I can say my physical shape is fine. I just need to get my legs ready.”
Blake finished behind Botswana teenage sensation Letsile Tebogo, whose heat-winning time of 9.94sec was a new under-20 world record.
Japan’s Abdul Hakim Sani Brown won the final heat in 9.98sec ahead of Kenya’s Ferdinand Omanyala, who ran 9.77sec last September to go ninth on the all-time list.
It was a remarkable result for Omanyala, who only just managed to secure a last-minute visa to travel to the United States and took to the track only hours after touching down on US soil.
“It looks like everybody is talking about me, but I hope it is for a good reason,” Omanyala said. “It’s a motivating thing that you can attract so much attention like that.
“I just want to focus on the race and not the other things around. The main thing was get to the semifinals. I’m glad I did.”
Omanyala added: “My body feels heavy now. But even if I did not make it from the heats, the journey would be worth coming here. I really feel I have something to offer.”
De Grasse sympathised with the Kenyan’s late arrival, but added that battling with jetlag was part and parcel of the elite one-day circuit.
“It’s very tough,” he said of Omanyala’s last-gasp show.
“I do it all the time for Diamond League. That’s part of the sport. And for championships you usually come five, six days before so you’re fresh.”
Saturday sees the semi-finals scheduled for 0100 GMT, with the final to be run at 0250 GMT.