August 13, 2008
With the excitement in the Olympic swimming pool drawing to a close, attention now turns to the Bird's Nest Stadium and the action on Track and Field. For many, the highlight will be the men's 100m, featuring three supreme talents.
Usain Bolt, 21, Tyson Gay, 26 and Asafa Powell, 25 are all competing for the title as the fastest man on earth. But which of the three, if any, holds the advantage?
At just 21, this is obviously Bolt's first Olympics. He burst onto the scene earlier this year with a new world record of 9.72 seconds, but in spite of this, he may lack the big event experience needed to shine at an Olympic Games.
Asafa Powell definitely has the experience, having reached the Olympic final in Athens, finishing fifth, but subsequent failure in Osaka at the World Championships in 2007, finishing third, brought questions about his mental strength. Powell, who has been at the top of his field for four years now, insists that he is mentally able to compete on the biggest of all stages.
Tyson Gay broke 10 seconds for the first time in 2006 and the following year beat Powell in the 100m to complete a sprint double in Osaka, with Bolt finishing second in the 200m.
Bolt is renowned as a very relaxed and laid-back athlete who tends not to feel the pressure. The Olympic Games is different and with the 100m coming before his preferred 200m, he may take time to find his feet.
Although questions marks remain over Powell's ability to perform at the top, he is the most outwardly confident, even arrogant perhaps, of the three men. Whilst arrogance can be a weakness, the record of Maurice Greene proves that it is far from a barrier from success.
Gay's attitude is remarkable. Many pundits have noted the awe with which he approaches these games and his child-like enthusiasm. He has been described as 'self-effacing' and 'humble', a distinct contrast from his predecessor at the top of US sprinting, Maurice Greene. It's hard not to like Gay and you can be sure that he can deal with whatever pressure he may face.
Bolt has broken 10 seconds five times this year and gone under 9.80 twice, including his world record run. Since his remarkable debut, he has never disappointed and is likely to continue to impress in Beijing.
Powell appears to be an athlete on his way down from the top, having lost his world record and failed to break 9.80 this season. But, at only 26, he is still able to pull out a great time and the question is merely whether he can do it at the Olympics. Powell comes into these games on the back of a convincing win in Monaco at the end of July.
Until recently, Tyson Gay was still a doubt for the Games. His hamstring injury has hit his preparations hard and he is yet to compete since returning from injury. He insists that he is 100%, but only he knows if that's true. He has performed well this season, running a personal best of 9.77 at the US trials, before running a wind-assisted 9.69.
What about the rest?
For the purposes of this article, I have, until now, ignored all other athletes, but do any of them have a chance?
Derrick Atkins of the Bahamas has a PB of 9.91, but is yet to break 10 seconds this year.
Marc Burns of Trinidad and Tobago comes into the Games off the back of his first sub-10 performance in three years, clocking 9.97 into a headwind this year.
Darvis Patton of the USA set a PB of 9.89 this year but at 31 is probably out of contention.
Walter Dix, 22, is one for the future. With a PB of 9.96, he won't challenge for the medals unless one of the big three has a disaster. He might, however, spring a surprise on Bolt in the 200m, but it's unlikely.
Walter Dix, in my mind, is most likely to steal a medal, but we should see all three medals going to the three stars of sprinting.
What the Bookies Say
Most are offering 3/2 on Bolt, 2/1 on Gay and 9/4 on Powell. At these odds, I really wouldn't want to put my money where my mouth is.
Whilst the signs all point to the young pretender, Bolt, I'm not sure that his heart is really in the 100m and the spectacle may prove to be too much. I'm going to stick my neck out and plump for Gay, with Bolt and Powell powering Jamaica to 4x100 glory.
Gold - Tyson Gay - USA
Silver - Usain Bolt - JAM
Bronze - Asafa Powell - JAM