The seventh day of athletics at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games features three world record-holders going for gold in their events. Here’s what the action promises inside the Olympic Stadium on Thursday (18).
Stage two for Bolt’s triple
After winning an unprecedented third straight sprint crown on Sunday night, Usain Bolt will attempt to repeat the trick in the 200m in the night’s last final at 22:30 (local time). The world record-holder looked impressive in the rounds, winning his semi-final in 19.78 without having to push.
His old adversary Justin Gatlin didn’t make it to the final, but another US sprinter could figure. LaShawn Merritt won his heat in 19.94 and the Rio 2016 400m bronze medallist has a best of 19.74 over the half-lap distance.
Other medal candidates include Canada’s Andre de Grasse, who set up his quest for a second medal with a Canadian record of 19.80 in his semi-final. 2009 world silver medallist Alonso Edward won the third heat in 20.07 and has proven championship pedigree.
If any of that cast stops Bolt, it will go down as one of the biggest shocks in Olympic history. If Bolt wins, the Jamaican will reaffirm his status as the best sprinter ever and move on to pursue a ninth Olympic gold in the 4x100m relay.
Another decathlon record in Eaton’s sights
The remaining five events of the decathlon start with the 110m hurdles at 09:30. Defending champion and world record-holder Ashton Eaton leads after a solid first day in which he amassed 4621 points.
The 121-point cushion that gives him over second place Kai Kazmirek, who posted personal bests in the long jump and 400m on day one, is not as healthy as he might have expected, but the US superstar has the class to see it out. In fact, if he hits his season’s bests, he is on course to break the Olympic record.
It would take a special day for a challenger to catch Eaton. Damian Warner enjoyed a strong first day and sits third. Kevin Mayer is also flying after three personal bests. Carry that form through day two and the Frenchman could be in the mix for a medal.
After the hurdles, discus is at 10:25, pole vault at 13:25, javelin at 18:35 before the 1500m finishes the 10-event challenge at 21:45.
Spotakova’s turn for hat-trick tilt
Another world record-holder aiming for a third straight individual title is Barbora Spotakova, who can become the first woman in history to achieve the feat in the javelin final at 21:10.
The Czech missed out on a medal at the European Championships, but was second best in qualifying with 64.65m and can have strong hopes of winning a historic treble.
The woman who out-threw her in qualifying was Maria Andrejczyk. With her sole attempt, the 20-year-old went out to a Polish record of 67.11m, the best throw in the world this year.
The German trio of Christin Hussong, Linda Stahl and Christina Obergfoll oozes class, and each could win a medal. Stahl was best of the three in qualifying with 63.95m. European champion Tatsiana Khaladovich and Diamond Race leader Madara Palameika could also figure in the medal hunt.
Already at these Games, three women have had third consecutive individual gold medals denied by outstanding performances from their rivals. It will need another to halt Spotakova.
Day-long shot put tussle
The field events so far at the Games have been particularly dramatic. The men’s shot put has the ingredients to deliver another spectacle.
Joe Kovacs leads the world list with 22.16m. Though he was beaten by Ryan Crouser at the US Trials (who threw a handy personal best 22.11m), world champion Kovacs showed he was in shape when he prevailed over world indoor champion Tomas Walsh and David Storl in a big throwing contest at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London.
Two-time world champion Storl won his third consecutive European title last month. The German had knee surgery at the end of last year but is rounding into shape nicely as he looks to upgrade on his 2012 silver medal.
Poland’s 2008 and 2012 Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski features but has not gone beyond 21 metres since 2014. His young teammate Konrad Bukowiecki set a world U20 record to win the world U20 title last month. The 19-year-old has fourth-place finishes from this year’s World Indoor Championships and European Championships. He could make an impression on his Olympic debut.
Nothing assured in 400m hurdles finals
There are no certainties as to how the medals will be divided in the men’s and women’s 400m hurdle finals, which both take place on Thursday (18).
The men’s final is the first of the day at 12:00 local time. USA’s Kerron Clement was fastest in the semi-finals (with a season’s best of 48.26) and will be confident of adding another medal to his silver from 2008.
Olympic bronze medallist Javier Culson was just second to Clement at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London last month. The Puerto Rican set a season’s best of 48.46 to ease through his semi-final and has the tools to kick on in a tight battle.
Though those two are the favourites, a raft of impressive performances in the semi-finals mean this is one of the most open finals of the week. Jamaica’s Annsert Whyte won his semi-final in a personal best of 48.32; Thomas Barr won his in an Irish record of 48.39; Kenyan pair Boniface Tumuti and Haron Koech set personal and seasonal bests respectively.
The women’s final, which takes place in the evening session at 22:15, USA’s Dalilah Muhammad carries the biggest threat on paper after posting the fastest time in the event for three years at the US Olympic Trials. The 2013 world silver medallist had the only sub-54-second clocking in the semi-finals and looks determined.
Two-time world champion Zuzana Hejnova will have reasonable hopes of preventing Muhammad. Though the 2012 bronze medallist was slower than usual in her Rio build up, the Czech posted a season’s best in the semi-finals.
Second fastest in 2016 Janieve Russell and current and past European champions Sara Slott Petersen and Eilidh Child bring further depth to what should be another fittingly dramatic 400m hurdles final.
First on the track in the day’s qualifying events are the men’s and women’s 4x100m heats from 11:20. The day will also see qualifying rounds in the women’s high jump (10:00) and 800m (21:15) and the men’s 1500m (20:45).
Thomas Byrne for the IAAF