Usain Bolt is ready to defend his Olympic titles. First up is the 100-meter dash, beginning on Saturday.
Bolt will compete in the 100-meter, 200-meter and 4x100-meter relay. Jamaica is a clear favorite in the relay, but Bolt will have some stiff competition in the individual sprints.
The 100 has four stages spread over two days, starting on Day 8, though the first one does not involve Bolt:
Preliminaries: Saturday, August 4: 5:00 AM ET (Bolt and the other top sprinters get a bye.)
Round 1: Saturday, August 4: 7:30 AM ET
Semifinals: Sunday, August 5: 2:45 PM ET
Final: Sunday, August 5: 4:50 PM ET
World Record: 9.58 seconds, Usain Bolt, Jamaica, 2009 World Championships
Olympic Record: 9.69 seconds, Usain Bolt, Jamaica, 2008 Olympics
It will be difficult for Bolt to match the success he had in Beijing, when he became the first sprinter to win three gold medals in the same Games since Carl Lewis did it in 1984.
He's had some injury concerns with his lower back and hamstrings. Some are related to the track, while others are the result of a pair of car crashes over the last three years.
But at a pre-Olympic press conference (via Yahoo! Sports), Bolt said he's "ready to go."
I'm always ready. It's all about championships. I've had slight problems, but I'm ready to go.
I'm going to focus on going out there to win.
My back was a little stiff and it affected my hamstring, but I'm over that. I've been training for the past two-and-a-half weeks, and everything is all right.
What he may not be ready for is his training partner, Yohan Blake.
Bolt lost to Blake in the Jamaican National Senior Championships in June. Blake also won the Cayman Invitational earlier in the year.
There was also speculation that Bolt intentionally jumped the gun at the 2011 World Championships to avoid racing Blake.
At the London Games, Bolt won't be left at the blocks, but he won't be the first to hit the finish line...at least not in the finals.
He will use Saturday as an opportunity to loosen up and get accustomed to the track. He won't need great times to advance to the semifinals, but he will break the 10-second mark in Round 1 to make sure he has an inner lane assignment for Sunday's opener.
The goal with his semifinal heat will be to get a middle lane in the finals. He won't have to run his best race, and he'll likely not open up his full sprint. He figures to be in the 9.9 range, which will drop him near the middle of the track in the finals.
The competition should be solid in the finals, but there are only two men that have shown they can match Bolt at this distance.
Tyson Gay posted some solid performances and even beat Bolt in 2010 at the DN Galan meet. But that was when Gay was healthy and Bolt wasn't. Since then, Gay has had minor health issues that have interrupted his training schedule.
Gay won't challenge Bolt but should be a factor along with Asafa Powell and Justin Gatlin for the bronze medal.
The gold and silver medals will fall to the Jamaican teammates and friends.
While there are ample reasons to question if Bolt is still the sprinter he was in 2009, he echoed his preparedness on Twitter.
The month of "glory" is up on us— Usain St. Leo Bolt (@usainbolt) August 1, 2012
Blake is the young version of Bolt. He's struggled through some maturity issues but is ready to secure his place alongside Bolt as an Olympic champion and the fastest man in the world.
Bolt hasn't shown the ability to post times in the 9.6 range in recent seasons, and a 9.8 won't get him ahead of Blake.
Cold and wet conditions could keep the Olympic record safe. They will also take more of a toll on the sprinters that have been dealing with injuries (Bolt, Powell and Gay).
Blake isn't likely to break his personal best of 9.75, but he won't be far off it. Most importantly, he'll be .03 seconds ahead of Bolt and will be named the fastest man in the world.
Bolt will need to exact his revenge in the 200, starting the following Tuesday.
Bolt showed he still has his former strength still in him. He performed as predicted in Round 1 (10.09 seconds) and in his 9.87 in the semifinal heat was in the aforementioned 9.9-range.
But instead of hitting the 9.78 seconds I'd predicted in the final he broke his Olympic record with a 9.63 for a gold medal.
Blake was right on his target of 9.75 and Justin Gatlin was just behind for bronze. Asafa Powell pulled up during the race and finished in 11.99 seconds.
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