Mo Farah and Usain Bolt ignited the first day of the athletics world championships on Saturday but the event was blighted by dire crowds and yet another high-profile doping scandal for a leading sprinter. Despite hot and humid conditions Bolt barely broke a sweat in his 100 metres heat as he sauntered into Sundays semi-finals in 10.07 seconds. Organisers,whose claims to have sold 80 percent of seats for the August 10-18 championship look hopelessly optimistic,will hope a few more fans turn up for Sundays showpiece final.
Only a few thousand were scattered around the vast 81,000-capacity Luzhniki Stadium even for Saturdays opening ceremony where Russian President Vladimir Putin officially opened the showpiece. Those who were there were treated to a consummate performance by Britons Olympic distance-double champion Farah in the 10,000 metres,while Kenyas Edna Kiplagat also produced a tactically astute run to retain the womens marathon.
Bolt starts as an unbackable favourite to add the 100m title to his Olympic double,partly due to the absence of fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell and American Tyson Gay,who have both failed drugs tests. With every doping case that rocks the sport,Bolts value increases,though there was little showboating on Saturday as the Jamaican went about his business with a serious look.
A false start in the lane next to him,sparking memories of his final disqualification two years ago,did not shake his concentration. American duo Mike Rodgers and Justin Gatlin both dipped under 10 seconds to lead the qualifiers,with Peimeng Zhang also catching the eye with a Chinese record 10.04.
Kiplagats marathon feat
The first medals of the day were decided in the womens marathon,where 33-year-old Kiplagat,who led a Kenyan sweep in 2011,started steadily then patiently tracked surprise front-runner Valeria Straneo until the 40km mark.
She then broke clear to triumph in 2:25:44,leaving 37-year-old Italian to take silver ahead of Japans Kayoko Fukushi. Straneo,who had her spleen and gall bladder removed three years ago,was delighted with her silver and performed a cartwheel on the track after crossing the line.
There was drama in the decathlon where double defending world champion Trey Hardee crashed out after no-heighting in the high jump. Hardee,who triumphed in Berlin and Daegu and took Olympic silver last year,strained a hamstring and failed to clear 1.90. Fellow American and Olympic champion Ashton Eatons 47.02 seconds 400m was the fastest in 30 years of world championship decathlons and earned him a slender lead over 20-old compatriot Gunnar Nixon.
Asian Games gold medallist Sudha Singh failed to qualify for the womens 3000m steeple chase final round as she finished a disappointing 12th in the heats. Sudha clocked 9:51.05,well outside her personal best and national record timing of 9:45.60,which she recorded in June in Chennai. Sudha was the lone Asian participating in the event and she finished 12th in the 14-athlete field for Heat One and 23rd overall.