21 AUG 2008 Preview Beijing

Beijing 2008 - Day 8 PREVIEW

Dibaba, unparalleled in Beijing (Bongarts/Getty Images)Dibaba, unparalleled in Beijing (Bongarts/Getty Images) © Copyright

The day’s seven finals will begin at 7:30 a.m. with the men’s 50 kilometre Race Walk.

With three-time winner Robert Korzeniowski of Poland retired, Russia’s 2004 silver medalist Denis Nizhegorodov, 28, is the logical favorite – not just because he’s the 2004 runner-up, but even more because he set the current World record of 3 hours 34 minutes, 14 seconds in May. His toughest opposition should come from his 22-year-old teammate, Igor Erokhin, Italy’s Alex Schwazer, and Yuki Yamazaki of Japan, the only three others who have broken 3:42:00 this year.

Decathlon concludes

The second day of the decathlon is where all the drama takes place, and of course where all the medals are decided. Bryan Clay of the U.S is leading after the first day’s five events, and should win. But with a thin 88-point lead over Andrei Krauchanka of Belarus after five events, and with another six athletes within 250 points, Clay will have to be close to his personal best to fend them off.

Dibaba vs Defar in 5000m

The big race on the track will be the women’s 5000 metres, and it’s one of the most intriguing races of the week. The field is led by 2008 gold medalists Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH), winner of the 10,000 metres a week ago and also holder of the women’s 5000 record of 14:11.15, and Russia’s Gulnara Galkina-Samitova, who set a new world record winning the women’s 3000m Steeplechase five days ago. Also in the mix are 2004 Olympic 5000 champion and 2007 World champion Meseret Defar of Ethiopia, Lilia Shobukhova of Russia, and Elvan Abeylegesse of Turkey and Shalane Flanagan of USA, second and third behind Dibaba in the 10,000 here.

The women’s Long Jump has a logical favorite – Tatyana Lebedeva of Russia, the 2004 Olympic champion and 2007 World champion. But at 32, with a season’s best of only 6.88 metres, she will be under attack from two Western Hemisphere jumpers – Brazilian Maurren Maggi, 6.99 this year, and American Brittney Reese (6.95). Two others with  good medal chances are Carolina Kluft (SWE), who skipped an almost sure gold medal in the Heptathlon to try the long and triple jumps and has jumped 6.87 this year, and USA’s Grace Upshaw (6.88).

Lukyanenko up to the challenge?

With the men’s Pole Vault favorite, 2007 World champion Brad Walker (USA), failing to clear his opening height in the qualifying round, the men’s Pole Vault suddenly appears wide open. Most of the 12 vaulters who qualified struggled to clear 5.65, while Russian vaulters Igor Pavlov and Evgeny Lukyanenko had no misses. Lukyanenko is one of the two vaulters in the field who have jumped higher than 5.83 this year; the other is Australian Steve Hooker at 6.00. These two ought to be fighting for the gold medal, but this is the Olympic pole vault, and anything can happen.

4x100m relay finals - Jamaica's crowning glory?

The evening’s program will wind up with the men’s and women’s 4x4100-metres relays. Many of the teams usually in the fight for medals didn’t make the finals, due to faulty baton passing, lane violations, or just slow running  – including the men’s and women’s teams of France, Italy, and the United States. The result should be another double victory for Jamaica to go with their gold medals in both 100s and both 200s, which means you'll probably get another chance to see Usain Bolt in action.

There will also be qualifying races for the men’s and women’ 4x400-metres finals, which are scheduled to conclude the athletics program on Saturday evening.

James Dunaway for the IAAF