Valerie Adams in the shot put at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (© Getty Images)
Inside a damp and slightly chilly Olympic Stadium, the key protagonists all cruised into tonight’s final with the minimum amount of energy expended.
Naturally the main focus of attention was thrust upon history-chasing Valerie Adams, who is seeking a hat-trick of Olympic titles, and from the evidence of qualification the giant Kiwi would appear to have the title within her grasp.
The 31-year-old shot titan has had her difficulties rediscovering her very best form since undergoing elbow and shoulder surgery in 2014 and knee surgery last year. Yet in recent weeks Adams has returned to 20-metre form and her 19.74m effort – way in excess of the automatic qualification mark of 18.40m – was an emphatic statement of intent.
The best of the rest was 2015 world champion Christina Schwanitz, who hurled the shot out to 19.18m with her first effort to quickly qualify.
The German too has had her injury issues, but she knows that to wrestle the title from the formidable Adams will require a superlative effort, particularly as the Kiwi boasts a superior 30-2 head-to-head record.
World number one Lijiao Gong also eased into the final with a throw of 18.74m. The 2012 Olympic bronze medallist, who earlier this year posted a PB of 20.43m, is a consistent championship performer and she is sure to be chasing more precious metal tonight.
World Indoor champion Michelle Carter required a second throw of 19.01m to advance. The experienced US thrower, who produced an area record of 20.21m when striking gold in Portland, unleashed a slightly rusty 17.95m in the first round, but will also be a factor later in the first field event to be decided at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
USA’s former world junior silver medallist Raven Saunders, a rising talent in the shot circle, also caught the eye advancing with 18.83m - the fourth best effort in qualification.
Others to line up in the final include the 2016 European silver medallist Anita Marton of Hungary, who reached18.51m, and Geisa Arcanjo, the 2012 Olympic finalist, who ensured a Brazilian presence in tonight’s final with a season’s best of 18.27m.
China's Yang Gao was the major casualty in this morning’s qualifiers.
The 2015 world championship fifth-placer looked out of sorts from the outset and a best of 16.17m – more than three metres down on her PB – was never likely to threaten a final spot.
Steve Landells for the IAAF