Haile Gebrselassie wins 5000m in London IAAF SGP (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview 19 August 2004 – Athens, Greece

Daily Olympic PREVIEW: Friday 20 August

Athens, GreeceWith the historic Shot Put competition in Olympia completed on Wednesday, the first full day of Athletics begins on Friday 20 August in the Olympic stadium with two more gold medals up for grabs.

Perez - another winning pilgrimage?

Eight years ago Jefferson Perez got the athletics programme in Atlanta off to an emotional start when he staggered into the arena on the first morning of competition to give Ecuador its first ever Olympic gold medal. Now 30, Perez will be hoping he can regain his Olympic title when the 20km Race Walk gets underway at 9am on Friday morning, and this time he will enter the race as the overwhelming favourite.

In 1996 he became the youngest ever Olympic Race Walking champion, and celebrated by making a 459km walking pilgrimage from Quito to his home town of Cuenca. He hasn’t said whether he will repeat the trip if he wins here. In many ways, it will be a bigger surprise if he doesn’t win as Perez has been in world beating form.

He set a World record (1:17:21) at the World Championships in Paris last summer, and was a convincing winner of the IAAF Challenge event in March and the World Cup in May this year, clocking 1:18:42. With reigning Olympic champion Robert Korzeniowski of Poland opting to stick with the 50km here, the closest challenge to Perez is likely to come from Spain’s Francisco Fernandez whose previous world best Perez snatched by one second.

Gebrselassie goes for historic number three

The second gold medal will come at the opposite end of the day when Haile Gebrselassie goes for his third consecutive Olympic 10,000m gold medal against his young compatriot Kenenisa Bekele, the man who smashed both his 5000m and 10,000m World records earlier this season. Rumours abound that the ‘little Emperor’ is suffering from an Achilles injury and may not be in full fitness, but if past finals are anything to go by this will be a cracker.

In his previous finals Geb was the man to beat, the man who Kenya’s Paul Tergat had to break down. Now it’s Gebrselassie who must find a way of running the finish out of World champion Bekele. Not that they will be the only two in the hunt. Sileshi Sihine could complete an Ethiopian sweep of the medals, and expect the Kenyan trio of John Korir, Moses Mosop and Charles Kamathi to have their own plans.

Swedish stars

A galaxy of other stars will make their first appearances on Friday. Overwhelming favourite, Carolina Kluft, will begin her quest for Sweden’s first multi-event gold in the first four events of the Heptathlon, starting with the 100m hurdles at 9.30am.

Fellow Swede Christian Olsson will also be in the arena during the morning session for the men’s Triple Jump qualifying, as will double Olympic champion Gail Devers in the women’s 100m, alongside other medal favourites such as Christine Arron, Veronica Campbell and LaTasha Colander.

In the evening there will be first glimpses of Hicham El Guerrouj in round one of the men’s 1500m, Stefan Holm in the men’s High Jump qualifying and Maria Mutola in the women’s 800m.

Matthew Brown for the IAAF