Veronica Campbell of Jaamaica in the 200m quarter finals (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Athens, Greece

Daily Olympic PREVIEW - Wednesday 25 August

Veronica Campbell’s name has been mentioned for some time as a potential 200m champion, ever since she won the sprint double at the 2000 World Junior championships in Chile. But only this season has she really threatened the very best on the world senior stage.

Women’s 200m Final

Campbell, 22, is at the forefront of a new generation of women sprinters that includes herself and Aleen Bailey from Jamaica, plus two hot talents from the USA, 22 year-old Muna Lee, at the 18 year-old Allyson Felix. Like Campbell, Felix has been touted as a potential world beater since May 2003 when she broke the 23 year-old world junior 200m record in Mexico City. She clocked 22.11 that day but, unfortunately, no drug test was carried out so the record could not be ratified.

In the semi-finals on Tuesday Campbell made herself the woman to beat in tomorrow’s final, running a world leading time for 2004, 22.13. Felix was fast too, recording 22.36, only three hundredths slower than Bailey.

The final, scheduled for 23.20, could well be between these three. It will end another busy night of athletics on which medals will be decided in two other events, one of which carries huge hopes for the Greek crowd.

Women’s 400m Hurdles Final

The loudest roar to erupt in the Olympic stadium on Sunday evening was not, as might be expected on such a night, for Justin Gatlin’s scintillating 100m victory, nor for the brace of Swedish gold medallists, Christian Olsson and Stefan Holm, but a semi-final winner, Fani Halkia. The blonde-streaked Greek 400m hurdler brought the near capacity crowd to its feet with an Olympic record 52.77 and catapulted herself into the favourite’s position for tomorrow’s final.

Halkia’s time was the sixth fastest ever, and makes her the fourth-fastest one-lap hurdler in history. After Athanasia Tsoumeleka’s triumph in the 20km Race Walk on Monday morning, could this event provide the home nation with it’s second track and field gold?

The world record holder, Yuliya Pechonkina, also powered through her semi, recording 53.31. The Russian was a hot favourite for at the World Championships last year but tied up badly in the final, allowing Australia’s Jana Pittman to take the gold. Pittman, who’s had injury problems recently, ran more conservatively in the semis, and will also be in the mix for medals.

"I ran well but it's better to slow down and get into the final in good shape," said Pittman.

Women’s Hammer Final

The women’s Hammer Throw final, which gets underway at 22.10, could be one of the events of the Games judging by the quality of the qualifying competition on Monday morning. No fewer than five women threw further than the existing Olympic record and seven exceeded 70 metres. The old record stood at 71.16m, set by Poland’s Kamila Skolimowska when she won the gold in Sydney.

China’s Yuan Gu was the first to beat it when she opened her qualifying competition with 71.65m. But by the end of the round it had moved up to 73.71m and belonged to European champion Olga Kuzenkova. The Russian, who won the silver medal in Sydney four years ago, and has finished second at three consecutive World championships, will hope she can clinch gold this time.

But with the Cuban pair Yipsi Morena and Yunaika Crawford, Ukraine’s Irina Sekachova, China’s Wenxiu Zhang and Germany’s Andrea Bunjes also throwing beyond 70 metres in qualifying, this will be a tough final. Skolimowska will be there too, to defend her title. She qualified comfortably with 68.66m.

Men’s 200m semis

All the big names survived the first two rounds of the men’s 200m, including 100m champion Justin Gatlin, who is seeking to become the first man since Carl Lewis in 1984 to win the sprint double. His training partner Shawn Crawford has the fastest time of the year and confirmed his pre-Games status as the favourite for this event in the second round on Tuesday evening, running a blazing 19.95 in the first heat.

The powerful American took nearly 10 metres out of former Olympic silver medallist Frank Fredericks of Namibia before putting the breaks on some five long strides from the finish. Gatlin ran well too, clocking 20.03, as did the 100m silver medallist Francis Obikwelu, and Jamaica’s 100m finallist Asafa Powell. Fredericks ran his best time this year, 20.20, but admitted that he would need to be quicker to reach the final.

Men’s 5000m semis

Kenenisa Bekele, the young Ethiopian who won that incredible 10,000m on Friday night, will return to the arena for the semi-finals of the men’s 5,000m. Bekele is aiming to become the first man to win both long distance track events at an Olympics since another great Ethiopian, Miruts Yifter, won the double in 1980. It’s a feat even Bekele’s great mentor Haile Gebrselassie never attempted.

However, Bekele was hotly tipped to do the double at the World championships in Paris last summer and came up just short.

The fascination then, as now, was the prospect of Bekele battling against Hicham El Guerrouj. In the event, it was Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge who slipped through to take the title, out-dipping El Guerrouj on the line. The Moroccan will hope to have an easy ride in the semis tomorrow evening after his gold medal-winning exertions in the 1500m final just before midnight tonight. Kipchoge should also qualify for Saturday’s final comfortably.

The evening also includes the start of men’s 800m, and the second round of the men’s 110m hurdles, plus three field event qualification competitions: the women’s Javelin Throw and Long Jump, and the men’s Pole Vault.

Matthew Brown for the IAAF