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Usain Bolt advances at worlds with ease

DAEGU, South Korea -- Stepping out onto the big stage, Usain
Bolt instantly transforms into the ultimate showman.

The Jamaican sensation played to the adoring crowd again
Saturday at the world championships, blowing on his fingers as if
to cool off the tips of his imaginary pistols and mugging for the
camera at every opportunity.

Once he settled into the starting blocks, Bolt put on a show in
the 100 meters. He was well out in front of the field after his
first step and so far ahead by the midway point that he looked back
at the pack with a big, you-can't-catch-me grin on his face, easily
winning his heat in 10.10 seconds.

"It was a good run," Bolt said, nonchalantly.

Meanwhile, Ashton Eaton of the United States leads the decathlon
after five events, 53 points ahead of teammate and defending world
champion Trey Hardee.

In the first round of the women's 400, Americans Sanya
Richards-Ross and Allyson Felix had little trouble advancing out of
their heats. Richards-Ross won her race easily, while Felix started
off strong, only to be passed near the finish as she eased up to
conserve energy.

After all, she has a long week in front of her.

Felix began her quest to capture the 200 and 400 titles in
Daegu, a difficult task given all the rounds and not much of a
break in between events.

"I feel good, excited to finally get started," Felix said.

The Kenyan women were perfect twice on the opening day of the
championships. The African nation swept both the women's marathon
and 10,000 to finish the day six-for-six in medals, an
unprecedented feat for the first day in the 28 years of the
championships.

Former Olympic gold medalist Justin Gatlin advanced to the next
round of the 100 - bad feet and all. The American recently got
frostbite after stepping into a cryogenic chamber with wet socks.
He didn't lose any toes, but his wounds have hardly healed.

The 29-year-old Gatlin is running to repair his reputation as
well. He's been waiting for this moment since returning to
competition last season after serving a four-year doping ban.

"It feels good," Gatlin said. "One thing I learned going
through championships throughout my career is it's not about what
you do in first round. A lot of people like to throw out good
times."

Reigning world pole vault champion Steve Hooker of Australia
failed to clear a height in qualifying and was eliminated. Later,
Olympic 400 champion Christine Ohuruogu of Britain was disqualified
for a false start.

Bolt has been hearing about how he's lost a step this season and
runners such as Trinidad and Tobago's Richard Thompson or Jamaican
teammate Yohan Blake are ready to take away his title at the
worlds.

The always affable Bolt was better than both Saturday night and
barely even broke a sweat. Thompson was third in his heat (10.34),
while Blake had little trouble winning in 10.12.

"People are always going to say what they want," Bolt said.
"I'm focused on what I want. My focus is to go out there and win,
execute and show the world I'm still the best."

Bolt was out in front of the field so fast that it looked like
he was given a head start.

British runner Dwain Chambers had to try to play catch-up from
the moment the gun sounded. And he, along with every other
sprinter, has come to realize there's simply no catching up to Bolt
when he's at his best.

Chambers finished second and advanced to the semifinals on
Sunday. The finals are Sunday night.

With Tyson Gay sidelined because of a surgically repaired hip
and world leader Asafa Powell withdrawing two days ago because of a
groin injury, Bolt's main rivals aren't there to give him a nudge.

That's all right -- he still has the clock. And at major events,
that's become his biggest competitor.

In the marathon, Edna Kiplagat crashed on the street late in the
race only to recover and lead her nation to an unprecedented sweep
in 2:28:43 and earn the first gold medal of the competition.
Kiplagat got tangled up with teammate Sharon Cherop at one of the
last water stations and suddenly was on all fours.

"I was a little shocked," Kiplagat said. "What was in my mind
was I wasn't sure if I was going to pick up the pace again."

Vivian Cheruiyot led a Kenyan sweep in the 10,000 in 30:48.98.

"We were inspired by the marathon girls and we wanted to
achieve the same," Cheruiyot said.

World-record holder Bolt is picking up where he left off at the
last world championships two years ago in Berlin, where he
dominated the field. Bolt broke his own 100 mark in Berlin with a
time of 9.58.

He's already acknowledged he's not in record-breaking shape this
season. But judging by his performance in the first round, Bolt may
want to adjust that thinking.

He did his best to rev up the crowd Saturday, constantly
clowning around and running his fingers through his hair while
looking up at himself on the stadium's big screen. Even his uniform
looked special. The daughter of reggae great Bob Marley was hired
to design the team's gear.

Bolt hummed down the lane, too, until he shut it down a good 40
meters before the finish. That's all he needed as he planted this
thought into everyone's mind: When he runs like this, can Bolt be
beat?

"That's a good question," Thompson said. "I'll have to figure
it out."

For as good as Bolt looked, this might not be a cakewalk.
Two-time Olympics bronze medalist Walter Dix captured his
preliminary heat in 10.25 and, just like Bolt, did so in easy
fashion. After crossing the line, Dix did a little strut and puffed
out his chest, knowing he ran the way he envisioned.

"I wanted to come out and win the race easily," Dix said.

Before the start of the 100, former world champions Maurice
Greene and Gay chatted at a get-together to discuss track's
signature event. They stated their favorites in the 100, among
other events.

Gay's favorite wasn't a surprise - Bolt. But Greene chose Blake,
Bolt's up-and-coming teammate.

"In championships, stars are born and stars are made," Greene
said. "He's young, talented and doesn't know any better than to
just go out there and run fast."

Go ahead, doubt Bolt. He enjoys proving people wrong.

Even more, he enjoys celebrating in front of them.

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.

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.

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 final, 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.