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Looks like run for the ages

Andi Thornhill

Looks like run for the ages

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The men’s 100 metres is still the blue riband event of the Olympics.
It has produced great champions like the incomparable Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis, Haseley Crawford and Maurice Greene.
I believe it intrigues us because it is technically the hardest and most intense event as there is little room for error if you want to claim the prize and bragging rights as the world’s fastest man.
This year is no different. If anything, none before it, in my opinion, has carried greater hype and expectations than the forthcoming final on Sunday, August 5 in the London Olympic Stadium.
Looking at the possible eight finalists, it has the makings of the greatest 100 metres ever. We could very well see a field that comprises every runner who has clocked under ten seconds in his career.
To use a popular Bajan term, it will be “speed to burn”.
But there’s plenty more which makes this race a mouth-watering prospect.
It has to do with two Jamaicans. One, the undisputed king of speed up until last year’s World Championships in South Korea and the recent Jamaica Olympic Trials and the other, who is the reigning World champion and who many see as the next great international sprinter.
Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake have been in every discussion relating to the London 100 metres showdown. You would think it was a match race if you didn’t know better. Truthfully, the reasons for this are well documented and well understood.
Bolt looked invincible at the last Olympics in China, setting three records which he went on to smash in commanding style at the World Championships in Germany a year later in 2009. Nobody could dispute, based on those performances, that he was the greatest sprinter of all time.
Then came, South Korea last year when he left the world shocked as he false-started in the 100 metres and his compatriot, friend and training partner Blake won the prestigious title in his absence.
Then came Kingston towards the end of July this year and the unthinkable happened: Bolt was beaten by Blake in both the 100 and 200 metres.
Was this the beginning of the changing of the guard among speed demons? Was Bolt fully fit? Could these feats be repeated at the Olympics?
These questions surfaced again as Blake clocked 9.75 seconds at his last Diamond League race before London. It is the best time for the year, bettering Bolt’s 9.76.
In essence, Blake seems to be one step ahead of his illustrious countryman and Bolt seems to be worried.
Reports in the international media say that he doesn’t appear to be as confident as before and Bolt admitted last week that he’s had a lot to deal with since Beijing.
He talked about several appearances he has to make including those for sponsors but the comment that may have made his fans uneasy is when he said he’s only 95 per cent fit going into the Games.
That coupled with his poor start, which seems to have gotten worse since last year’s mistake, might raise the hopes of his opponents including Blake that he’s there for the taking.
It could be a false sense of security. If I were in their shoes I would be anticipating a dramatic comeback and wouldn’t get complacent.
Bolt may be a wounded lion in the athletics jungle but he’s also the defending champion looking to safeguard his legacy as an Olympic great. He has the greatest incentive of all to pull something extra out of the bag.
If he starts well, he will win and in record time, as I expect he will be pushed all the way by Blake and company.
The top two can be followed home by Tyson Gay. Trinidadian Keston Bledman is my dark horse.
The men’s race will overshadow the women’s as it usually does but expect fireworks from Jamaican Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce, the defending champion, and American Carmelita Jetter. However, don’t rule out Kelly Ann Baptiste of Trinidad nor Nigerian Blessing Okagbare, both of whom have strong claims for a spot on the podium.
• Andi Thornhill is an experienced award-winning freelance sports journalist.