Daegu: The most compelling race of the championships is still on after Liu Xiang, Dayron Robles and David Oliver all qualified for the semifinals of the 110-meter hurdles Sunday.
Liu proved he is finally getting back to the form which earned the 2004 Olympic and 2007 world titles by having plenty of time to ease up at the line and still win his heat. Oliver kept his powerful shoulders in perfect balance over the hurdles as he dashed through a winner, too.
Only the easygoing Olympic champion from Cuba, who flaunted his form with his graceful strides over the 10 hurdles, let American rival Aries Merritt nip him at the line.
"Everybody is looking good," Robles said. "It`s very good for the final."
The final is set for Sunday and should bring the three fastest performers in history together for one of the highlights of the nine-day championships.
"It will take 13 seconds or better to win," Liu said through a translator.
Robles holds the world record at 12.87 seconds, with Liu`s best time just .01 seconds behind. Oliver trails by another .01, highlighting how tight the race could be.
Defending champion Ryan Brathwaite failed to make the semifinals.
In the first of six finals of the day, Olympic and defending world champion Valeriy Borchin led a 1-2 Russian finish in the 20-kilometer walk with a time of 1 hour, 19 minutes, 56 seconds. Vladimir Kanaykin took silver, 31 seconds behind, and Luis Fernando Lopez of Colombia was third.
Later Sunday, Usain Bolt will highlight the 100 semifinals and likely the final, too, considering how dominating the Jamaican was in Saturday`s heats.
Kenenisa Bekele will be looking for his fifth straight 10,000-meter title, which would push him past the mark he now shares with Ethiopian great Haile Gebrselassie. Since he has not run for the better part of two seasons because of injury, victory is anything but assured.
The men`s decathlon also reaches its climax, with American teammates Trey Hardee and Ashton Eaton at the top of the standings after seven of 10 events.
The women`s long jump and discus throw are the other finals on Sunday.