Osaka:Liu Xiang is Olympic champion and has the world record. Now he wants the 110 hurdles world title too.
China's only track star ran clean over the 10 hurdles to win his opening heat in 13.36 seconds, well off his world record of 12.88. Time was the least of his worries though - a relaxed opening run was most important.
"It was easy. I was not forced to show my best," Liu said.
Whatever happens in Osaka this year, the nation of 1.3 billion will count on Liu to win at the Beijing Olympics. China still has no medal yet at these championships and he is by far the best chance to get a gold.
In one of the most competitive events of the championships, US hurdler Terrance Trammell advanced in 13.40. Defending champion Ladji Doucoure of France had an early scare, qualifying in second place behind Cuban Dayron Robles as the first of four races all clocked in 13.61.
Veronica Campbell knows all about tight races after winning the 100 by .003 seconds over American Lauryn Williams. The Jamaican had far less trouble in the opening heats of the 200, where she is looking for a sprint double.
She won her race over Torri Edwards of the United States and was happy she did not have to push too hard in a time of 22.87.
"I'm tired, but by the final I will be OK," she said.
Again, her toughest challengers will be American. Allyson Felix, who gave up the 100 to concentrate on the 200, had the top time of 22.50.
I wanted to get out there on the track and get my legs moving. It felt great," she said. "The fact that a lot of people see me as the favorite puts a little pressure on me, but I have high expectations myself."
For Sanya Richards, who won her heat in 22.74, the situation is different.
She would have been the overwhelming favorite later Wednesday to win the 400, which she has dominated for the past two years, but she failed to qualify for the US team.
That race is now wide open since Olympic and defending champion Tonique Williams-Darling is out injured.
"It's been really hard to watch the 400. They're running really fast and I know it's going to be a fast final," Richards said. "I think I would've run really well. That's depressing, but I think the 200 is going to be exciting, too."
The United States will be looking for gold from defending champion Michelle Perry in the 100 hurdles to widen its lead in the medal standings. The US team has 3 golds and 8 medals overall after 4 days of competition. Russia and Kenya were close behind with 3 gold and 7 overall.
Tyson Gay will also seek to get closer to his sprint double. After beating his archrival Asafa Powell in the 100 over the weekend, he has his semifinal in the 200 late on Wednesday.