Ana Guevara of Mexico - winner of the 400m semi-final (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Athens

Daily Olympic PREVIEW - Tuesday 24 August

With four World titles, three outdoor World records, and a couple of win streaks the length of Morocco behind him, El Guerrouj surely needs only an Olympic gold to ensure his status as the greatest ever 1500m runner. He has tried twice, and failed twice. This season he hasn’t always been at his brilliant best but he eased into tomorrow’s final with the sort of smooth performance in his semi on Sunday that has become so familiar over the last eight years.

Men's 1500m Final

A number of his rivals also looked to be in fine form, however, not least Kenya’s Sydney bronze medallist Bernard Lagat, and Ethiopia’s Mongeta Wondimu. In his World Championships finals El Guerrouj has often benefited from the presence of a Moroccan teammate, and that could be the case here, as Adil Kaouch will be there with him tomorrow.

Expect the Moroccan pair to go out steady, and gradually build the pace. El Guerrouj will attempt to run the legs off everyone else from the front as the laps tick by. Lagat will hang on, just as he did in Zurich, when he beat his friend in a thrilling finish. “That win gave my confidence a huge boost,” he said last week. Whether he can do so again, we will see.

The men’s 1500 will be the climax of a packed evening of action, containing six finals. While it will be the highlight of the track action, the women’s pole vault final will be the centrepiece on field. If there are to be any World records set at this Olympic Games then, surely, this event will be where they come.

Women's Pole Vault Final

Indeed, both the main favourites – Yelena Isinbayeva and Svetlana Feofanova – have said they believe it will take a vault of more than 4.90, the current World mark, to win. Between them they have broken 17 World records in the last two and a half years, and none of the other finallists have jumped within 19 centimetres of that height. It should be a fascinating battle.

Women's 400m Final

Another tight head to head could come in the women’s 400m, where all eyes will be on Mexico’s Ana Guevara. The World champion has had a more troubled season this year, but seemed to be returning to something like her unbeatable 2003 form in the semis. She won her heat in a comfortable looking 50.15. The leading runner this year has been Tonique Williams-Darling of the Bahamas and she was quick too, running 50.00. But quickest of the lot was USA’s Monique Hennagan, the only runner to break 50. She clocked 49.88.

Women's 100m Hurdles Final

Perdita Felicien is another of last year’s World champions hoping to add an Olympic gold to her growing collection. The Canadian surprised everyone when she won in Paris. Then she won the World Indoors in Budapest too, and looked in terrific form in the semis on Monday, clocking 12.49.

USA’s Joanna Hayes looks likely to be her main challenger, and she was even faster, running 12.48 in the second semi. USA’s Melissa Morrison, Russia’s Irina Shevchenko and Ukraine’s Olena Krasovska could also be in the medals. Felicien has the fastest time in the world this year, at 12.46, a time that might well be threatened in the final.

Gail Devers won’t be in the contest though. The 37 year-old has never won the Olympic hurdles title her talent so clearly deserves, and she won’t win here. Devers strained a calf muscle before the opening rounds on Sunday night and never made it past the first hurdle.

“Everyone has their obstacles to overcome,” she said.

Steeplechase Final

The men’s steeplechase at 21.40 will centre around the usual phalanx of Kenyans, with 19-year-old Brimin Kipruto the fastest qualifier from the semi-finals. (8:15.11). Paul Kipsiele Koech, the fastest in the world this year, should also feature, along with the young Qatari (and Kenyan-born) Obaid Musa Amer.

Decathlon - Second day

At the end of the first day of the decathlon Dmitriy Karpov of Kazakhstan is leading World record holder Roman Sebrle by 95 points. Sebrle has held the World record for three years but has never won a major title. He is poised to change that tomorrow.

USA’s Brian Clay is another 40 points behind him going into the second day, with Britain’s Dean Macey a further 100 adrift. Clay was in first place through the first three events today, but Karpov’s superior high jump (2.09 to 2.06) enabled him to leap ahead while Sebrle moved from third to second with 2.12. Macey leapt from seventh to fourth by clearing 2.15, but with World champion Tom Papas in fifth it’s all still to play for when they return for the 110m Hurdles at nine o’clock tomorrow morning.

Men's 400m Hurdles semis

The men’s 400m hurdle semi-finals will provide a second chance to assess the form of Dominican Republic’s Felix Sanchez, the IAAF World Ranked number for the event. The double World champion hasn’t lost a 400m Hurdles race for more than three years, and has been running with a “Sydney 2000” flashing wristband since his disappointing seventh place in the semi-finals there. Barring disaster, he will lay that ghost to rest tomorrow and secure his place in the final.

There will also be the first round of the men’s 110m Hurdles, the men’s 200m, the women’s women’s 1500m, and the men’s long jump.

Matthew Brown for the IAAF