LONDON, England — After easy first-round wins yesterday Jamaica's male 100m sprinters will be expected to battle the Americans in what should be an exciting day of world-class sprinting on the super fast track at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, London today, as track and field competition in the 27th Olympic Games gets to fever pitch.
Usain Bolt, the most sought after and discussed athlete at these Games and who is seeking to be the first man since American Carl Lewis in 1992 to retain his 100m title, will lead the Jamaican charge that includes world champion Yohan Blake, the youngest man to run under 10.00 seconds and fastest man this year with his personal best 9.75 seconds, as well as former world record holder Asafa Powell.
Former Olympic champion Justin Gatlin, who has talked as fast as he has run this year, leads the Americans that include the soft spoken but dangerous Tyson Gay and Ryan Bailey, who leads the qualifiers with 9.88 seconds yesterday, equalling his personal best, with Gatlin not far behind with 9.97 seconds, running through the tape.
The men's 100m race has excited and fascinated the sports world for the past few months and all the questions will be answered at around 9:50 pm tonight UK time (3:50 pm Jamaica time) in what should be a packed stadium with all 80,000 seats taken and billions watching all around the globe.
They will first have to get pass the semi-finals set to be run two hours earlier before the eight men will line up in what many expect to be the fastest 100m race ever run.
Bolt, who won his first-round heat in a pedestrian 10.09 seconds yesterday, said he was looking forward to the semis today to "blow out my legs", will run in the second of three semi-final heats along with silver medallists from Beijing Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago, American Bailey, training partner Daniel Bailey of Antigua and Dwain Chambers.
Blake will face Gay in the third semi-final heat, while Powell will lock horns with Gatlin in the first heat with the first two in each heat, as well as the two fastest losers, advancing to the final.
Yesterday, the Jamaicans were easy winners in their first-round heats. Bolt ran 10.09 seconds (+0.4m/s wind); Powell cruised in 10.04 seconds (0.0m/s) despite his block slipping at the start and Blake 10.00 seconds (+1.3m/s).
American Bailey and Justin Gatlin (9.97 seconds) set the early pace with wins in heir heats, while Gay was easier in his heat, winning in 10.8 seconds.
Bolt, who had issues with his start in Kingston in late June, told reporters yesterday he had been working on getting out of the blocks and he saw good signs in the first round. "My start was much better this time and I can't complain, I have been doing a lot of work on it."
He added that he and coach Glen Mills "have been doing a lot of work on that, but we have come to the conclusion that we should not worry about the start, we should just focus on the rest of the race which we always do, so I am focusing on the final 50m, which is my strong point".
Powell, who is seeking his first individual Olympic medal, said the first round run was "to get the cobwebs out" and even though his blocks slipped at the start, he "executed quite well".
The usually reserved Powell has been relaxed leading into the Games and he said this is because of his confidence and after "learning how to control my anxiety, control everything that is around me and just focus on myself".
While he admitted his bothersome groin injury was not fully healed, he said he was confident it would hold up through the rounds, though he was not thinking about it.