DAEGU (Yonhap) -- The so-called Big Three in the men's 110-meter hurdles -- Dayron Robles, Liu Xiang and David Oliver -- cruised into the semifinals at the ongoing World Championships in Athletics here Sunday, setting the tone for what promises to be a memorable battle in the final.
They hold the three fastest 110-ｍeter hurdles records in history. Only 0.02 seconds separate the personal best marks of these three, and they're also ranked 1-2-3 -- with Oliver in the lead followed by Liu and Robles -- so far this season.
Robles, the world record holder from Cuba with 12.87 seconds, coasted over his final stretch in the first round and qualified for the semifinals Monday with the seventh fastest time in the field at 13.42.
For Robles, who has run 13.04 this year, that was plenty good enough.
"I feel confident because I have two more runs," he said. "I didn't need to run too fast today because I don't need that to qualify. I was running easy today."
Just before the championships, Robles, 24, said he felt a world record could be possible in Daegu. As the last to run among the Big Three, Robles said he paid attention to Liu and Oliver's runs.
"Everybody's looking good," Robles said with a smile. "It's going to be great for the final."
Liu was the first of the three to run and had the best time among them. The 2004 Olympic champion and former record holder with
12.88 seconds, Liu was second in the opening stage at 13.20, just one-hundredth of a second behind Jason Richardson of the U.S.
Liu, 28, later said he was actually surprised with his time.
"I am feeling great. I am just enjoying the competition," said Liu, whose best time of the year is 13 flat. "I have no physical problems whatsoever."
That may be good news for his fans, since Liu has been bothered by injuries over the past three years, but may not be for this competition.
Oliver was third in the opening round at 13.27. The 29-year-old American, the world's top runner this year so far with 12.94, said he was happy with his race.
"It's all about one at a time to get into the next round," he said. "I really didn't try to press to do anything."
The burly Oliver cuts a different figure than the more lithe Liu or Robles. Oliver, a former American football player, is a powerful runner who muscles his ways over hurdles to the line. Liu is more explosive out of the blocks than the other two. Robles is the technician who glides over the obstacles.
While Liu and Robles were only cautiously optimistic about their chances, Oliver was more outspoken.
"Someone's got to win, so why not me, right?" Oliver said. "I am here representing the United States to put the best foot forward and go for gold."
Another American, Jason Richardson, just might crash the Big Three party. He topped the first round at 13.19, and later said he knows "I am crazy enough to think I can win it all."
"I am absolutely under less pressure (than the three)," he said. "I am a realist and I know that nothing is expected of me, so I have nothing to lose and everything to gain."