Brenda Martinez of Rancho Cucamonga recorded the fastest opening time ever by an American woman in the first round of the 800 meters at the track and field world championships, winning her heat at Moscow’s Luzhniki Olympic Stadium.
No U.S. woman has ever won a medal in the 800 at the world championships, but Martinez and five-time U.S. champion Alysia Johnson Montano of Canyon Country are considered contenders.
Competing Thursday morning Moscow time — which was late Wednesday Pacific time -- Martinez won her heat in 1 minute, 59.39 seconds, the fastest qualifying time. Montano won her heat in 1:59.47. Nineteen-year-old Ajee Wilson of New Jersey, a former world junior champion in the 800, also advanced by finishing third in her heat in exactly two minutes.
The semifinals will take place on Friday.
“I was just trying to feel the pace,” Martinez said on USA Track and Field’s website.
“I think I went by [the first 200 meters] at like 28 [seconds], so I was trying not to get too excited, but I had to learn to be patient, especially in the 800, that’s kind of what you have to do. You have to get that sense of pace, and I feel like I did that today.
“The plan was just to race to win. I didn’t want to take chances and go for second or third and have someone come out there and take that spot, so I really wanted to make sure I came in like that.”
Montano said she felt good after her race. “I’ve got to recover and get to the next round,” she said.
All four U.S. entrants in the women’s 200 advanced, led by Olympic gold medalist and three-time world champion Allyson Felix of Los Angeles. Felix was timed in 22.59 seconds to win her section, the sixth of seven. Charonda Williams (22.83 seconds), Kimberlyn Duncan (22.84) and Jeneba Tarmoh (22.88) also advanced.
“It was nice to finally get out there,” Felix said. “I just wanted to work the turn a little bit and focus in on the start and ease in comfortably.”
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, who won the 100-meter title, also moved on to the 200 semifinals.
For full results and race reports, check out the world championships section at www.iaaf.org. That’s the website of the International Assn. of Athletics Federations, the international governing body of track and field.