PIC: Halima Nakaayi (far left) had to sprint to a third-place finish. (AFP)
IAAF WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS LONDON 2017
STRATFORD - Ugandan pair Halima Nakaayi and Dorcus Ajok booked themselves automatic spots in the women's 800m semi-final after both finished third in their respective heats Thursday night.
But Winnie Nanyondo, also racing in the women's 800m heats, did not advance.
Ronald Musagala progressed to the men's 1,500m semi-final with a fourth-place finish in the second of three heats of the night.
Earlier, Ugandan interest in the women's 5000m heats Mercyline Chelangat and Stella Chesang failed to make it through to the final.
In the women's 800m heats, Nakaayi, visibly the smallest in physique in her heat, had to break out into the outer lane for a home-straight sprint to overtake and beat three athletes to the third spot.
She burst across the finish line in a time of 2:01.80 minutes behind lanky Kenyan Margaret Nyairera Wambui (2:00.75) and Great Britain's Lynsey Sharp (2:01.04).
Meanwhile, Ajok, racing in heat five of six, appeared to have a more comfortable outing. She kept up with the lead group all the way, eventually crossing the line also in third, automatically through to the semi-final.
The Ugandan did a time of 2:02.98, only beaten by American Charlene Lipsey (2.02.74) and Hedda Hynne of Norway (2.02.85).
Nanyondo failed to progress after finishing fifth with a time of 2.02.65.
In that first heat, American Ajee Wilson (2:00.52) finished first, Benin's Noélie Yarigo (season's best 2:00.99) second and Egle Balciünaité (2:01.21) of Lithuania third.
Uganda came into day seven of the 10-day global competition with representation in three different track events: the women's 5,000m heats, women's 800m heats and the men's 1,500m heats.
In her heat, the first of the night, Chelangat started off by sitting right at the back of the pack. And it's at the rear that she remained for most of the race, eventually coming through in a time of 15:16.75.
Kenya's Hellen Onsando Obiri took that one with 14:56.70 ahead of Ethiopia's Almaz Ayana with a season's best of 14:57.06 and Senbere Teferi (14:57.23), also of Ethiopia.
In heat two, Chesang pulled to the front from the start and kept there with the likes of favorite Sifan Hassan of The Netherlands. At 1,600km, the Ugandan was at the very back but she swiftly sprang into the middle of the group.
But it was a tough cast to compete amongst and it soon showed as Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey and Hassan broke clear of the leading group to finish first and second respectively.
Chesang galloped in a little later in 11th place with a time of 15.23.02.
With Chelangat and Chesang failing to impress in the 5,000m event, Ugandan focus zoomed in to the remaining two events.
It didn't go as planned for Nanyondo but an impressive last-50m sprint by the dimunitive Nakaayi and a comfortable run by Ajok ensured that Uganda is still in contention for women's 800m medals.
But they will have to first make it successfully through the semi-final. In reality, it won't be easy, especially with the likes of South African champion Caster Semenya, Burundi's Francine Niyonsaba and Kenyan Wambui in the mix, and all eyeing a podium finish.
Meanwhile, Musagala will be back on the track on Friday in the men's 1,500m semi-final after progressing automatically from Thursday night's heats with a time of 3:42.75.
That time is below his season's best (3.33.65) and personal best (also 3.33.65) and the Ugandan athlete will have to run faster to stand a chance of advancing to the final.
With three days left, Team Uganda in London is yet to add to the silver medal that Joshua Cheptegei won on the very first day of the competition in the men's 10,000m final.
The event ends this Sunday.