By Steve Keating
DOHA (Reuters) – Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith powered her way into the 200 metres semi-finals at the world athletics championships on Monday, with a gold medal suddenly up for grabs following a rash of high-profile withdrawals.
After taking silver in the 100m on Sunday, Asher-Smith will be licking her lips at the prospect of 200m gold after clocking the top time of 22.32 seconds in the opening heats with many of the medal favourites unable to make it to the starting blocks.
While it was a surprise to see many of sprinting’ s biggest names, including newly crowned 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, missing from the start list, the sight of thousands of empty seats at Khalifa Stadium has now become routine.
Once again, the 40,000-seat, air-conditioned venue was largely empty for the women’s sprint with entire sections devoid of spectators.
Fraser-Pryce, who rocketed to 100m gold ahead of Asher-Smith, decided not attempt the double due to the effort put in on Sunday while Ivory Coast’s bronze medallist Marie-Josee Ta Lou was also a scratch having picked up an injury in final.
Dafne Schippers, 200m champion at the last two worlds, pulled out of the 100m final after straining an adductor muscle and decided she was not fit enough to defend her crown.
The event had already lost one of the gold-medal favourites Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas, who owns the best time of 21.74 this season but opted out of the 200m in Doha.
Jamaican Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, who narrowly missed out on a 100m medal on Sunday and finished fourth, has not been in top form in Doha but looked sharper in the 200.
Wrestling with niggling injuries, Thompson did more enough in her opening heat, clocking 22.61 behind American Brittany Brown in 22.33.
The semi-finals are on Tuesday.
(Editing by Clare Fallon)