Olympic Track and Field 2012: Top Athletes, World Records & Events Primer

Blake Dorfman@blakedorfmanFeatured ColumnistAugust 2, 2012

Olympic Track and Field 2012: Top Athletes, World Records & Events Primer

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    There are just so many storylines and big names to follow in Track and Field at the London Olympics.

    Is Usain Bolt still the man to beat in the sprints? Can Lolo Jones really win a medal? Does Ashton Eaton have another world record in the decathlon ready for us?

    Here's a guide to the must-see names and events in the meet as well as world records that find themselves in danger in London. 

Usain Bolt in the Sprints

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    * All times are EDT

    Usain Bolt broke world records in both the 100 and 200-meter dash in Beijing, but it might not be so easy this time around. 

    100-meter dash (World Record: Usain Bolt, 9.58 seconds, 2009)

    Prelims: Saturday, August 4th (5 a.m.)

    Round One: Saturday, August 4th (7:30 a.m.)

    Semifinals: Sunday, August 5th, (2:45 p.m.)

    Final: Sunday, August 5th (4:50 p.m.)

    200-meter dash (World Record: Usain Bolt, 19.19 seconds, 2009)

    Round One: Tuesday, August 7th (6:50 a.m.)

    Semifinals: Wednesday, August 8th (3:10 p.m.)

    Final: Thursday, August 9th (3:55 p.m.)

    In what is arguably the sport's premiere event, Bolt will be in a dogfight with both Jamaicans and Americans in the 100. He lost to Yohan Blake last month in the Jamaican Olympic Trials, and has had some trouble getting out of the blocks. Blake also won at the World Championships last year after Bolt false-started.

    The American contingent features legitimate contenders in both Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay. This could very well end up being the most exciting 10 seconds of the London Olympics.

    Bolt considers the 200 to be his main event, yet Blake once again bested him in it at the ultra-competitive Jamaican Olympic Trials. The Jamaicans have a chance for a podium sweep as Jason Young, 21, has gone as low as 19.86 seconds.

Lolo Jones in the 100-Meter Hurdles

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    You know who she is by now. She has it all as far as an athlete to watch — overcoming a rough upbringing, a Tebow connection, controversy on Twitter, etc...

    Women's 100-meter hurdles (World Record: Yordanka Donkova of Bulgaria, 12.21 seconds, 1988)

    Round One: Monday, August 6th (6:05 a.m.)

    Semifinals: Tuesday, August 7th (2:15 p.m.)

    Final: Tuesday, August 7th (4 p.m.)

    Here's the thing — Lolo is not going to come anywhere near a world record, and she is probably not going anywhere near a gold medal. She had gold in the bag in Beijing before stumbling out of the race on the second-to-last hurdle. She barely made the Olympic team, but she has received as much hype as any American track athlete leading up to this. If she wins a medal, it will be huge news.

Liu Xiang in the 110-Meter Hurdles

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    Can he be the China's comeback kid?

    110-meter Hurdles (World Record: Dayron Robles of Cuba, 12.87 seconds, 2008)

    First Round: Tuesday, August 7th (5:10 a.m.)

    Semifinals: Wednesday, August 8th (2:15 p.m.)

    Final: Wednesday, August 8th (4:15 p.m.)

    More tragic than Lolo’s stumble in Beijing was the injury to Liu Xiang, which kept the Chinese national hero sidelined for the final and unable to defend his 2004 gold medal on his home soil. It was a heartbreaker for the Chinese (this ridiculous video shows what a national tragedy it was, but he’s back and in strong contention in London.

Yelena Isinbayeva in the Pole Vault

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    The greatest women’s pole vaulter of all time goes for a third consecutive gold

    Women’s Pole Vault (World Record: Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia, 5.06 meters, 2009)

    Qualification: Saturday August 4th (5:20 a.m.)

    Final: Monday, August 6th (2 p.m.)

    Isinbayeva has won four World Championships indoors, two outdoors, two Olympic gold medals and currently holds the world record. She has faded some in recent competition, however. She finished out of the medals at the 2011 Worlds, and is not very popular amongst fellow pole vaulters. She is still the champion, but has a strong field vying to take her down. 

Oscar Pistorius in the 400-Meter Dash

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    He won’t contend for a medal, but his presence at the starting line is already a triumph.

    Men’s 400-Meter Dash (World Record: Michael Johnson of the U.S., 43.18 seconds, 1999)

    Round One: Saturday, August 4th (5:35 a.m.)

    Semifinals: Sunday, August 5th (3:40 p.m.)

    Final: Monday, August 6th (4:30 p.m.)

    Don’t wait until the semifinals or finals to see the “Blade Runner” compete, because he might not be there. Pistorius, a double-amputee from South Africa, didn’t meet the Olympic A standard in qualifying but was added anyway. It will be a great moment when he crosses the finish line, no matter what place.

Jenny Simpson & Morgan Uceny in the Women's 1,500-Meters

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    They're two Americans with a golden opportunity.

    Women’s 1,500 Meters (World Record: Yunxia Qu of China, 3:50.46, 1993)

    Round One: Monday, August 6th (6:45 a.m.)

    Semifinals: Wednesday, August 8th (2:45 p.m.)

    Final: Friday, August 10th (3:55 p.m.)

    Uceny was the top-ranked runner in the world in 2011 and is competing in her first Olympics. She is an interesting story to follow as she takes on a field including Simpson, who won the 2011 World Championships after Uceni was tripped up down the stretch. 

Ashton Eaton in the Decathlon

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    He’s the face of USA Track & Field and the greatest all-around athlete in the world.

    Decathlon (World Record: Ashton Eaton of the U.S., 9,039, 2012)

    Schedule of all 10 events here.

    Ashton Eaton went into the U.S. Olympic Trials as a still-developing 24-year-old with medal hopes. He left Eugene as the World Record holder, and the scary thing is he hasn’t come close to where he’s expected to go once he strengthens his throws. We could be witnessing the rise of the greatest decathlete ever. Don't miss it.

Mo Farah in the Men's 1,500 and 5,000 Meters

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    Great Britain's got a great shot at a double-gold performance.

    Men’s 5,000 Meters (World Record: Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia, 12:37.35, 2004)

    Round One: Wednesday, August 8th (5:45 a.m.)

    Final: Saturday, August 11th (2:30 a.m.)

    Men’s 10,000 Meters (World Record: Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia, 26:17.53)

    Final: Saturday, August 4th, 1:15 p.m.

    The British fan contingent will be roaring for Mo Farah as he attempts to double in both the 5K and 10K. He is considered by many as the greatest British distance runner in history, and winning both races against very strong fields would make him the host nation’s biggest hero of the 2012 Olympics, to be sure.

Allyson Felix in the Sprints

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    She’s chasing an elusive gold medal. Well, actually, two elusive gold medals.

    Women’s 100-Meter Dash (World Record: Florence Griffith-Joyner of the U.S., 10.49 seconds, 1988)

    Preliminaries: Friday, August 3rd (5:40 a.m.)

    Round One: Friday, August 3rd (2:05 p.m.)

    Semifinals: Saturday, August 4th (2:35 p.m.)

    Final: Saturday, August 4th (4:55 p.m.)

    Women’s 200-Meter Dash (World Record: Florence Griffith-Joyner, 21.34 seconds, 1988)

    Round One: Monday, August 6th (2:20 p.m.)

    Semifinals: Tuesday, August 7th (3:25 p.m.)

    Final: Wednesday, August 8th (4 p.m.)

    Allyson Felix has nine total World Championship gold medals and an Olympic gold medal in the 4x400 relay to boot, but she is still without an individual Olympic gold medal. She qualified for the 100 after a tie at the Olympic Trials in Eugene. Fellow sprinter Jeneba Tarmoh ended the potential run-off hype by conceding her spot. May, however, felt that Felix should have given it up to focus on the 200, her strongest event. She has a chance in both, but her best odds lie in the 200.

Americans in the 4x100 Relays

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    Here comes a shot at redemption.

    Men's 4x100-Meter Relay (World Record: Jamaica, 37.04 seconds, 2011)

    Round One: Friday, August 10th (2:45 p.m.)

    Final: Saturday, August 11th (4 p.m.)

    Women’s 4x100-Meter Relay (World Record: East Germany, 41.37 seconds, 1985)

    Round One: Thursday, August 9th (3:20 p.m.)

    Final: Friday, August 10th (3:40 p.m.)

    For both U.S. teams in Beijing, the 4x100 relay stunk worse than a plate of week-old chow mein. Both teams were disqualified for dropped batons in races that they were serious contenders in. The Jamaican men are the favorite this time around, having set the world record with a team that includes Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake. With some trash-talking between the sprinting camps, the U.S. will be hungry for an upset.

    The American women, meanwhile, are the defending World Champions after finishing 0.14 seconds ahead of Jamaica in Daegu last year.

    These are going to be some very, very tense moments in the blossoming U.S. rivalry with Jamaica.