Shawn Crawford and Obadele Thompson in the men's 100m quarter finals (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Athens, Greece

Daily Olympic PREVIEW - Sunday 22 August

The third day of the Olympic athletics programme will be sandwiched between two of the most eagerly anticipated events of the entire Games.

Men's 100m semis and Final

Often billed as a race to find the world’s fastest man, the men’s 100m final is the showpiece of many an Olympic athletics programme, if not an entire Olympic Games – and Athens is likely to be no different.

Assuming he safely negotiates the semi-finals, reigning champion Maurice Greene will come to the starting blocks attempting to become the first man since Carl Lewis in 1988 to retain his Olympic sprint title.

The scintillating performances of some of Greene’s rivals in the early rounds today (Saturday), however, proved that it will be far from easy. With five athletes blasting under 10 seconds in the second round, we can anticipate some scorching action here when the semi-finals start at 20.55.

Greene, USA’s Shawn Crawford and Portugal’s Francis Obikwelu, were the fastest qualifiers yesterday. Crawford burned down the straight to 9.89, just one hundredth outside his world leading time for 2004, while Obikwelu set a new Portuguese record of 9.93, despite easing up over the last five metres. Greene won a tense battle against Jamaica’s Asafa Powell (9.93 to 9.99). But Powell won the psychological battle as he was looking across at the American from 50m out. Crawford’s training partner Justin Gatlin was also steaming, clocking 9.96.

World champion Kim Collins was slower, at 10.05, but that was a season’s best and the laid back man from the Caribbean is still in the hunt. Stand by for fireworks.

Women's Marathon

It won’t be fireworks needed by the women marathon runners, but plenty of water and the odd cold spray. Much has been written about the superiority of Britain’s Paula Radcliffe over the rest of the field in the Marathon and the World record holder will arrive at the historic start line in Marathon at the end of Sunday afternoon as an overwhelming favourite.

Yet the 30 year-old will not only have the notoriously difficult course and Greece’s blazing heat to cope with, but a collection of talented runners too – including the fastest in the world this year, Margaret Okayo, and fellow Kenyan Catherine Ndereba, the World champion and second fastest Marathon runner in history.

The two Japanese, Reiko Tosa and Naoko Sakamoto, could also be in the mix when the medallists enter the Panathanaiko stadium, site of the 1896 Games, at around 20.20 local time.

Men's Triple Jump and High Jump Finals

Back in the Olympic Stadium, there will be three men’s field event finals, two of which could well see Sweden topping the medal podium again following Carolina Kluft’s magnificent Heptathlon win today. World champion Christian Olsson looks to be in golden form in the men’s Triple Jump after leaping 17.68m with his first attempt in the qualifiers on Friday morning. That was the longest ever jump ever in an Olympic qualifying competition, and Olsson’s task in the final was made easier when this year’s world leader Melvin Lister failed to make it to the final.

Olsson will face two other Americans, however, in Kenta Bell and Walter Davis, although his strongest competition could come from Romania’s Marian Oprea, who beat him earlier in the season. Britain’s Phillips Idowu, or the big Brazilian Jadel Gregorio, are also medal hopes. All in all in should be a high quality final as nine men bettered the automatic qualifying distance of 17 metres on Friday.

High jumper Stefan Holm could beat his countryman to the podium if he can reproduce the form he showed in qualifying for the final on Friday evening. The three-time World Indoor champion leapt impressively despite waiting for more than an hour and a half in Athens’ boiling cauldron.

Men's Hammer Final

World champion Ivan Tikhon of Belarus produced the longest effort in qualifying for the men’s Hammer Throw final, but he was one of only two men to throw further than 80 metres, the other being former World Youth champion Krisztian Pars of Hungary. Other contenders include Paris bronze medallist Koji Murofushi of Japan, who is unbeaten this year, and Hungary’s European champion, Adrian Annus.

Men's 1500m

Hicham El Guerrouj looked to be in imperious form in the heats of the men’s 1500m yesterday and the World champion will return to the track for the semi-finals at 21.50 knowing that two of his chief rivals have already been swept away in the dust and fury of the first round. His great friend and rival Bernard Lagat is still there though, despite losing a shoe on the last lap yesterday.

The Kenyan will face Britain’s Michael East in the first semi – an impressive winner in the heats yesterday – while El Guerrouj will come up against the 18 year-old Ethiopian Mulugeta Wendimu.

Women's 400m Hurdles

Yuliya Pechonkina heads the list of 400m hurdles semi-finalists. The Russian world record holder was a comfortable heat winner this morning in her quickest time of the year, 53.57. The home crowd will be stirred once more, though, by the second appearance of Fani Halkia. She had the stadium shaking to the chant of ‘Hellas, Hellas’, this morning as she set a new Greek record of 53.85 to qualify. These two won’t meet until the final on Wednesday as they are drawn in separate semis.

Women's 400m

World champion Ana Guevara was impressed with the Olympic track after running the first rounds of the women’s 400m this morning. She expects to run sub-48 in the final, and should qualify for that race on Tuesday evening. The Mexican, who lost her three year unbeaten run earlier this year, will be stepping up the pace in the semi-finals tomorrow night.

Tonique Williams-Darling of the Bahamas was the woman who ended that run. The fastest and most consistent one-lap runner in the world this year, no doubt she will also be moving up a gear after her easy 51.20 clocking this morning. USA’s Sanya Richards was the fastest overall from the heats with 50.11.

Matthew Brown for the IAAF

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