Usain Bolt will run the 100 meters in the fastest field ever assembled at the Van Damme Memorial on Friday, seeking to break the world record for the third time this season.
The Olympic champion will face Asafa Powell, the former record-holder who matched the second fastest 100 of all time on Tuesday, and Tyson Gay, the world champion seeking to recapture his form after a hamstring injury.
They are the three fastest men ever and have posted the 10 fastest 100 dashes ever run. Meet organizer Wilfried Meert said such a select field is unique.
"This has never happened before," Meert said. All eyes at the 50,000-capacity King Baudouin stadium will be on Bolt. The Jamaican won three gold medals and set three world records in Beijing last month to become the face of the games alongside swimming great Michael Phelps.
"Usain Bolt, we all know he is on fire right now," Gay said. On Friday, Bolt will be chasing his 100-meter mark of 9.69 seconds, which he set while slowing across the line and showboating over the last dozen meters. Some observers have said he could have gone below 9.6 if he had run hard all the way.
Friday's meet gives Bolt a last chance to prove what he is really capable of.
And he is in form, even after a cold and intercontinental travel from Beijing.
In Lausanne, Switzerland, on Tuesday, he eased up well before the finish in his 200 and still tied the fourth-best 200 of all time at 19.63 seconds, just .33 of his world record of 19.30 in Beijing. Last Friday, Bolt won the 100 in 9.83 seconds in the Weltklasse meet in Zurich, his first competition since Beijing. With the pressure of big competition challenges off, fellow-Jamaican Powell is at his very best again. Powell ran 9.72 in Lausanne, equaling the former world record Bolt set in New York City last May.
Powell's time was a personal best by two-hundredths and was one-tenth faster than his season's best, run in Monaco before his relative loss of form on the Olympic stage where he finished fifth. "I'm very happy, after all that I've been through this year," Powell said.
Gay, who failed to make the final in Beijing, is still slowed by a lingering hamstring injury.
"I don't think I am as sharp right now, considering my leg, to be very, very, competitive with those guys," he said, indicating he could still decide to skip the highly anticipated race. If no human can stop him, Bolt's biggest obstacle might well be the weather.
Weather predictions call for downpours and Friday's temperatures will peak at just 20C (68F) in the afternoon and will have cooled down considerably by the time Bolt lines up at 8.30 PM (1830GMT). "It will all depend on the weather and it doesn't look too good," Meert said. "It will be very difficult for the athletes that come out of the heat of Beijing."