A jubilant Carolina Kluft in the women's Heptathlon (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Daily Olympic PREVIEW - Saturday 21 August

Medals are up for grabs in three women’s events on the second day of athletics at the Olympic Stadium in Athens on Saturday 21 August, with World champion Carolina Klüft looking set to bring the women’s Heptathlon to a rousing, and potentially record-breaking conclusion.

Having stormed through the first four events, the Swede goes into the second day with a 240 point lead over Britain’s Kelly Sotherton and, given her total of 4109, has the magic 7000 point barrier in her sights. Only one other athlete in Olympic history has ever gone beyond that mark, and that was USA’s legendary Jackie Joyner-Kersee who did it twice in Seoul and Barcelona.

Holland’s Karin Ruckstuhl, lying in third, Portugal’s Nadia Gomez, in fourth, and Lithuania’s Austra Skujyte in fifth, are in the hunt for the minor medals with only 17 points between them. Reigning champion Denise Lewis is back in ninth place, 421 points adrift of Klüft and seemingly out of contention for a medal.

Women's 100m semis and Final

The women’s 100m will bring the day’s action to a tense climax. With favourites Christine Arron of France, Veronica Campbell and Aleen Bailey of Jamaica, LaTasha Colander of USA, and Ivet Lalova of Bulgaria all safely through the first two rounds today, the sprint women will begin to get serious at 20.20 local time when the semi-finals are scheduled.

The final, which will wrap up the day at 22.55, could be a blistering affair. Yuliya Nesterenko showed just how fast the track is this morning when she blasted to a Belarussian record of 10.94, one of seven national records in round one, and then produced the only other sub-11 clocking of the day, 10.99, to head the second round. She could well be the surprise package in tomorrow’s final.

The two veterans of the event, 44 year-old Merlene Ottey of Slovenia, and 37 year-old Gail Devers of USA, are both in the semis, although Devers, the Olympic champion in 1992 and 1996, only made it as the slowest of the time qualifiers from round 2.

Women's Discus Final

The other gold medal event will no doubt have the home crowd roaring as all three Greeks – Sydney silver medallist Anastasia Kelesidou, Stiliani Tsikouna and Katerina Voggoli, the European champion – made it through to the women’s Discus Throw final, along with the World champion Irina Yatchenko of Belarus.  A surprising seven women exceeded the automatic qualilfying mark of 62.50m given the lateness of the qualification competition, especially the second pool who began competing at 2315hrs.

Men's 100m

The first two rounds of the men’s 100m will be the highlight of the qualifying action, providing a first opportunity to assess the form of the main contenders for the title of ‘fastest man on earth’. Reigning Olympic champion Maurice Greene will no doubt seek to lay down a marker to his rivals, chief among them Jamaica’s powerful 21-year-old Asafa Powell who has beaten the American twice in the last month and run five sub-10 times this year.

Others to look out for include World champion Kim Collins, Greene’s teammate and this year’s fastest man Shawn Crawford, and the third American Justin Gatlin, who was second behind Greene in the US trials. All should sail through easily, although it’s worth remembering that the relatively inexperienced Powell failed to make it through the quarter-finals at the World Championships last summer despite running the quickest time in round one.

Greene and the rest of the fast boys should just be getting into their strides by the second round, which kicks off the evening track action at 19.40.

Women's 800m semis

After qualifying comfortably from round one this evening, reigning champion Maria Mutola will return for the semi-finals of the women’s 800m at 20.40 looking to stamp her authority on the event before Monday’s final. Unusually, she didn’t win her opening race, leaving it late before sprinting home in second, clocking 2:01.50. She may have to go out harder in the semis. Romania’s Maria Cioncan, with a pb 1:59.64, was the fastest qualifier, while Britain’s Kelly Holmes and Slovenia’s Jolanda Ceplak were also convincing winners of their heats.

Men's and women's 400m

The men’s 400m will also come to semi-final stage with Chris Brown of the Bahamas looking in fine form. He clocked the fastest time of the first round, 45.09, with USA pair Otis Harris and Jeremy Wariner, and Jamaica’s Michael Blackwood also looking good.

World one-lap champions Jana Pittman and Ana Guevara will begin their quests for Olympic honours in the women’s 400m Hurdles and 400m respectively.

Women's Pole Vault and Triple Jump qualification

They will face the morning’s blistering heat while two Russian women with 2004 World records to their names will enter the arena for the first time during the evening session. Both Tatyana Lebedeva in the women’s Triple Jump and Yelena Isinbayeva in the Pole Vault will be aiming to qualify with minimum effort for their finals, to be held on Monday and Tuesday respectively.

Matthew Brown for the IAAF

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