Hamblin, Smit progress; Cowley leaps to final

MARK GEENTY IN GLASGOW
Last updated 03:04 31/07/2014
Sarah Cowley
Getty Images

ADVANCING: Sarah Cowley competes duringg women's high jump qualifying at Hamden Park. She qualified for the 12-athlete final on Saturday morning (NZ time).

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It can be a stressful business, qualifying for a shot at the athletics medals at these Commonwealth Games.

"I'm sorry, I have to go, I feel a bit sick," said New Zealand's Angie Smit, after she finished fifth in her heat but qualified for tomorrow's 800m semifinals 10th fastest.

Smit and Nikki Hamblin, backing up from her fifth placing in the women's 1500m final the night before, both made the last 16 of the 800m while high jumper Sarah Cowley cleared 1.85m at her first attempt to reach the 12-woman final on Saturday (5am NZT).

All three New Zealanders had potential hard luck stories, which showed qualifying wasn't the stroll in the park it might seem.

Smit looked comfortable in heat three, cruising to the lead with a lap remaining in chilly, breezy conditions she lapped up when streaking away with the national 800m title in March.

Suddenly she faded entering the home straight as Canada's Melissa Bishop raced clear in the fastest heat time of 2min 01.73sec. Smit finished fifth, but luckily it was a quick heat and her 2:03.28 time saw her qualify as one of the four fastest losers.

Still it was anxious as a shattered looking Smit watched Hamblin's fourth heat on TV in the media zone under the Hampden Park grandstand, not knowing if she was through.

"That last 100m my legs just completely went, I wasn't quite expecting that last 100 to be that painful," said Smit, who has a season best of 2:01.53.

A smiling Hamblin almost mirrored Smit's time with 2:03.32 in finishing fourth behind Kenya's Eunice Sum who clocked 2:02.36. The first three from each heat qualified, with Smit and Hamblin among the four fastest losers.

There was drama for Hamblin, who went for an inside run in the home straight and was nearly chopped off by England's Marilyn Okoro who shifted ground. Hamblin eased back and pipped Okoro on the line.

"She's fully entitled to do that and I had to make the decision to go up the inside. It probably wasn't worth the risk knowing that I needed about 2:03. I probably gave a few people heart attacks," Hamblin said.

Sleep was the first priority for Hamblin ahead of the semifinals, scheduled for 5.50am tomorrow (NZ time).

"I'm stoked but I'm pretty smashed. I was lying there at 3.30 this morning saying 'go to sleep' and that made it worse. I'm looking forward to having a nap and coming back and doing it all again."

Cowley gave her supporters some heart flutters, too.

The former heptathlete who switched to high jump after the 2012 London Olympics, Cowley cleared 1.71m and 1.76m, then missed her first two attempts at 1.81m, 10cm below her personal best.

The packed house got behind her, roaring her on during a lull in other events, and Cowley responded by clearing her third attempt, then was one of 10 in the field to soar over 1.85m as she raised her arms jubilantly.

"It's just great to be in the final, that's the last tick and now it's just like game on and anything can happen. I'll just rest up now and go higher," she said.

"My jumps were really good and those first two at 1.81 were just a little bit adjusting to the feel of my run up. Sometimes it happens. It was such a relief clearing 1.85 at the first attempt and that just strengthens my mental game."

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