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Richardson, Lyles and Duplantis in cruise control at world championships

Sha’Carri Richardson and Noah Lyles went through the motions as they began their 200m campaigns bidding to add to the 100m golds they won earlier in the week at the World Athletics Championships on Wednesday.

Richardson, seeking to become the fourth woman to achieve the double and first since Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in 2013, recorded the fastest time in the heats of 22.16sec.

Two-time defending 200m champion Lyles did what was required as he timed 20.05sec. The American is aiming to become the first men’s sprint double winner since Usain Bolt in 2015.

Swedish pole vault superstar Armand Duplantis had no problems reaching the final but the defending champion and his rivals had to spend three and a half hours out in the sweltering morning conditions.

Richardson will have her work cut out to emulate Silke Gladisch, who won the 100m-200m world championships double in 1987, Katrin Krabbe (1991) and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (2013).

Gabby Thomas, who beat Richardson in the US trials, and Jamaica’s defending champion Shericka Jackson, who is out for revenge after having to settle for silver behind Richardson’s remarkable gold in the 100m, will be formidable rivals.

Thomas, who has the world’s fastest time this year of 21.60sec, recorded the second fastest time of 22.26sec.

“It does add a bit of pressure to be world leader but that’s the name of the game,” she said.

“I feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in so I’m ready to roll.” 

Lyles, 26, has set his sights not just on the double but also Bolt’s world record of 19.19sec set back at the Berlin worlds in 2009.

“I try to make all my races look as easy as possible, even if they aren’t,” said Lyles. 

“I still have gears left, I just didn’t need them here. Tomorrow the goal is to have my body and my legs ready to hit that power button again.”

‘I was like Oooh’

Lyles’s toughest opposition may come from 100m silver medallist Letsile Tebogo of Botswana and teenage American Erriyon Knighton.

Tebogo, 20, won his heat in 20.22sec.

“I think I will need to run faster than 19.50 for the title,” said Tebogo.

“Noah Lyles will attack the world record, and maybe, if I push him hard, he could set it.”

Duplantis, 23, is bidding to claim a sixth successive title. He was European, world outdoor and world indoor champion in 2022 and Olympic and European indoor winner in 2021.

His last defeat at a major championship was when he was 19, finishing runner-up to American Sam Kendricks at the 2019 world championship in Doha.

“It is quite hot, but I don’t think it is necessarily a bad thing,” said Duplantis.

“I think early in the morning the body needs to warm up naturally, so it was nice.

“I’m in good shape and I feel good technically, so I would say everything is ready to have a great jump on Saturday.”

Jamaican Wayne Pinnock produced perhaps the performance of the session as the 22-year-old long jumper posted a 2023 world-leading mark of 8.54m to cruise into Thursday’s final.

“When I saw the distance, I was like: ‘Oooh.'” said Pinnock.

“I was trying for this moment and it happened so I am grateful. In the final, I want to go out there and do the same thing and whatever comes will come.”      

The women’s 800m promises to be one of the races of the championships and the heats kicked off with defending and Olympic champion Athing Mu, European gold medallist Keely Hodgkinson and Commonwealth titleholder Mary Moraa progressing serenely.

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