Russia will look up to Yelena Isinbayeva to recapture some of her old magic
History beckons. After Michael Phelps, it is the turn of Usain Bolt to seize the spotlight, as athletics opens at the Olympic Stadium on Friday.
Will the Jamaican do it yet again and join Carl Lewis as the only men to win back-back 100m titles in Olympics?
Compatriot Yohan Blake, ‘the Beast’ has put doubts in the minds of the world, but the Olympics is no national trials. Of course, Blake is the reigning world champion and many of the former stars have put their money on the man who beat the world record holder in Kingston in June.
The very best thrive on the big stage. With the setback in the last World Championship when a false start made a blot in his career, Bolt may be expected to be at his fiery best. He has got the green signal following a hamstring strain.
American Tyson Gay, looking for that elusive Olympic medal, served a warning to the Jamaican camp.
“They know what I can bring to the table. Regardless of anything, we are going to have eight men capable,” he said, suggesting a strong final, and that nobody can run away to the finish like Bolt had done last time.
“If the weather holds up and everyone is healthy,” he was quick to add.
The former world champion in the 100 and 200 metres, Gay said on Wednesday that it was important, “for the USA to get back on top. It is important to win and it is important for me to take some leadership.”
It will not be just Bolt and Blake for Jamaica, as Veronica Campbell-Brown will also look to add to the three gold medals from Beijing. She may join Evelyn Ashford, to win the same event in three Olympics, if she gets the 200m gold against the tough challenge that could be expected from American Allyson Felix.
“I am fully aware that I must keep my mental focus right and get my race together. Eventually it all comes down to execution,” said Veronica.
Defending 100m champion, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce may have to battle it out against the second fastest woman of all time — Carmelita Jeter of the US — in the 100 metres.
There may be a new champion in the men’s 110m hurdles though Liu Xiang and Dayron Robles will be out there to show their class, as Aries Merritt of the US has emerged as the strongest contender for the title in recent times.
The host will look up to Christine Ohuruogu, the women’s defending 400m champion for a good start on Friday, as she fights for honours against the two world champions Sanya Richards-Ross and Amantle Montsho.
Mo Farah has been in focus through the build up to the Games, after having won the 5000m gold and 10,000m silver in the last World Championship. He will be keen to add to the collection of the gold medals for Britain.
And attention has been firmly placed on Jessica Ennis as well in heptathlon, and she may start on a better note with the 110m hurdles against world champion Tatyana Chernova of Russia and Olympic champion Natalia Dobrynska of Ukraine.
There will be interest in the women’s 1500m to see whether Ethiopia can win its first Olympic gold through Genzebe Dibaba or Abebe Aregawi.
Russia will look up to one of its finest athletes, Yelena Isinbayeva to recapture some of her old magic and add to her two gold medals in the Games, if not to her numerous world records in women’s pole vault. She did win the World Indoor championship with a jump of 5.01 but had finished sixth in the last World Championship.
Can Tatyana Lebedeva with two silver medals and a bronze from the Olympics at last get the gold in women’s triple jump? The 36-year-old Russian, who has a season best of 14.68m, will be up against world champion Olga Saladuha of Ukraine, who leads the season with 14.99 apart from Caterina Ibarguen of Columbia (14.95) and Kazakhstan’s Olga Rypakova (14.73), who are among the favourites.
Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia will open her double gold defence with the first track final of the Games, in the 10,000 metres on Friday. It will be a warm up for her against the world champion Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya.
The other final of the opening day of athletics will be men’s shot put, in which world champion David Storl of Germany will try to keep three Americans — Reese Hoffa, Christian Cantwell and Ryan Whiting — away from the top.