Three days on from riding to the rescue of his beleaguered sport, the Jamaican continued his bid for half-lap glory with a strong display at the Bird’s Nest.
Bolt won his semi-final with a season’s best of 19.95 seconds, easing home ahead of South Africa’s Anaso Jobodwana.
“I felt smooth, I just did what I had to do to qualify,” he said. “I’m more professional with 200m, I didn’t have to expend a lot of energy.
“It was a smooth race, it was a good one. I’m just trying to get it done, that’s my focus tomorrow.”
Standing in his way of glory is again likely to be two-time drugs cheat Gatlin, whose 19.87secs time was the fastest of the semi-finals.
Dauntingly, the American’s time was also the second fastest semi-final time ever on this stage after Francis Obikwelu’s 19.84s in 19.99.
“I didn’t know I was running that fast,” Gatlin said. “Hopefully I’ll put more energy into the finals and come out on top.”
Meanwhile, South Africa’s Wayde Van Niekerk won a blockbuster 400m in 43.48 seconds at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, while Kelly Proper was the best of the Irish in the heats of the 200 metres.
The men’s 400m final was one of the fastest in history with a loaded field including LaShawn Merritt (USA), Kirani James (Grenada) and Luguelin Santos (Dominican Republic).
Merritt set the pace but ultimately had to settle for silver in a personal best time of 43.65 behind the South African who powered to victory and ultimately had to be stretchered off the track due to his exertions. Kirani James won the bronze in 43.78 in a season’s best.
Kenya’s Julius Yego threw a massive 92.72m to win the men’s javelin. Yego was only 7cm off the championship record. Egypt’s Ihab Abdelrahman El Sayed won silver with 88.99m and Finland’s Tero Pitkamaki won bronze.
There was further gold for Kenya in the women’s steeplechase with Hyvin Jepkemoi triumphing, followed by Habiba Ghribi (Tunisia) in second in 9:19.24 and Gesa Krause (Germany) in third in 9:19.25.
Zuzana Hejonova (Czech Republic) defended her title in the women’s 400m hurdles in 53.50 ahead of Shamier Little in second in 53.94 and Cassandra Tate in third in 54.02. Cuba’s Yarisley Silva won a pulsating women’s pole vault final with a third-time clearance of 4.90m. Brazil’s Fabiana Murer was second with 4.85m and Nikoleta Kyriakopoulou (Greece) was third with 4.80m).
Proper was just outside her season’s best, finishing sixth in her 200m heat in 23.28 seconds at the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing.
Drawn in lane 8, Proper (Ferrybank) ran an aggressive bend and was in contention going into the straight but was just run out in the closing stages. USA’s Jeneba Tarmoh won in 22.79.
“I felt good, a personal best and national record (23.02 by Sarah Reilly in Edmonton in 2001) was my goal,” said Proper afterwards who was four hundreths of a second outside her season’s best of 23.24. “It felt fast so I was hoping for 23-low, and it just didn’t happen.
“I’ve been consistent all year, but I haven’t had that ‘wow’ race. I’ll take a break, look forward to putting in a few months really hard work and look forward to Europeans and hopefully the Olympics.”
Ciara Everard and Ben Reynolds found the going tough as they were knocked out of their respective heats in the 800m and 110m Hurdles.
Everard (UCD) went in heat 4 of the women’s 800m and felt she got her tactics wrong as she finished 7th in 2:03.98. Sofia Annaoui won in 2:01.16.
“I think it was just tactics, I got it wrong,” said the Kilkenny woman afterwards. Reynolds (North Down) was left frustrated with his 7th place finish in heat 4 of the 110m Hurdles in 13.72 seconds won by Jamaica’s Hansle Parchment in 13.33 — one of the championship favourites for the event.
“The first half of the race was good enough but then I started to fade. I felt I ran 13.2 pace the first half, 13.8 pace the second half.”
The day was soured by the news that two Kenyan athletes Joyce Zakary and Koki Manunga, became the first competitors to fail drugs tests at the World Championships in Beijing.
The pair were target-tested at their hotel by the IAAF.