The two questions I have been asked most since I arrived in London are who will light the cauldron and who will win the men’s 100 metres final. We’ve seen the lighting of the cauldron by seven young athletes nominated by British Olympic legends, in keeping with the London Olympic legacy theme. On
Sunday, we will find out who is the fastest man in the world. We will also find out whether Usain Bolt will remain the fastest.
Many people are picking his fellow Jamaican, Yohan Blake, the 100 metres world champion, to emerge triumphant. I think most people are touting him because he is new and beat Bolt twice at the Jamaica Olympic trials, but Bolt is still difficult to bet against.
He has struggled with a few minor injuries this year, but despite that managed to finish second to Blake at the Jamaica 100 metres trials in a quick 9.86sec - and that was with a horrible start. Blake beat him again over 200 metres 48 hours later, albeit by only three hundredths of a second.
Bolt has since had just over a month to prepare for the start of the 100 metres in London, with the preliminary round on Saturday. His best time is 9.58, almost two tenths of a second ahead of Blake’s best, and given the period he has had to work on his race, it is hard to oppose him. His times at the Jamaica trials suggest he is not far off where he needs to be.
What works against Bolt is that he has set a standard so high that he is expected to win every race - and by a wide margin. He is a target and all of his competitors have a psychological advantage over him since they all are targeting him. Even if Blake finishes second to Bolt no one is going to criticise him for losing to the greatest 100 metres sprinter of all time. Results Day 7
That makes Blake extremely dangerous. As we’ve seen already at these Olympics with Michael Phelps in the pool, it is harder to stay on top than it is to get there. Phelps was expected to win gold in the 400 metres individual medley but finished empty-handed.
That Bolt is not at his best makes the 100 metres more interesting. I would rather see a close race any day over Bolt running 60 metres and coasting the last 40, destroying the field as he did in Beijing four years ago.
Jamaica V USA
On Friday, the women’s 100 metres got under way and that should also be a great competition, with no clear favourite. In Beijing, Jamaica dominated the women's 100 metres, taking gold, silver and bronze, but I don't see that happening this time.
The top contenders are Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the Olympic champion, and Carmelita Jeter, the world champion. Jeter has been extremely consistent over the past few years and the two other Americans, Allyson Felix and Tianna Madison, along with Veronica Campbell-Brown, the two-time 200 metres Olympic champion from Jamaica, should make the final.
Blessing Okagbare, from Nigeria, is also in the mix, but I believe this will be between the Jamaicans and Americans.
Heptathlete Jessica Ennis started impressively on Friday, and as the face of London 2012 in the build-up to these Olympics, there will be great expectations for her to win gold.
That will be no easy task, given the recent performances of her main competitors, Nataliya Dobrynska of Ukraine, and Tatyana Chernova of Russia.
Ennis may have to produce a personal best to win, but I believe she can. She is one of the most focused athletes I have seen and, with so much expected of her, it will take all of that focus to produce her best performance.
Her principal rivals have performed well over the past year, with Chernova defeating Ennis at the outdoor World Championships and Dobrynska taking the indoor title. There will be huge expectations of Ennis from the British public and she will be aware of the opportunity to become a national heroine if she wins Olympic gold on home soil.
But those are just a few of the events that get under way this weekend. We are in for an exciting ten days of athletics, with some great races. Of course, I am somewhat biased, but this is the best part of the Olympics.
The writer is a four-time Olympic gold medallist and currently holds the 400M world record
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