Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is chasing history as she bids to become the first athlete to win a hat-trick of Olympic women’s 100m titles.
But it will be no easy task as so far this season she has been hampered by a lingering toe injury and the strength in depth in the event is formidable with at least half a dozen athletes in the frame for possible gold.
Since the diminutive Fraser-Pryce won her maiden Olympic 100m title in Beijing, the quick starting Jamaican has dominated her event adding three world 100m titles (2009, 2013 2015) and retaining her Olympic crown in London.
Now four years on she stands on the brink of history.
There is little doubt the toe issue has played a part in limiting her ability to unleash her best. Only once has she dipped below 11 seconds this year – when placing second at the Jamaican Championships in 10.93 – and in her final pre-Rio outing at the London Diamond League she would have wanted better than third in a time of 11.06.
Still, the 29-year-old has proved a master championship performer and she will not relinquish her Olympic crown without a fight.
Thompson and Schippers putting on the pressure
Waiting to profit from any vulnerability shown by Fraser-Pryce will be her teammate and world leader Elaine Thompson. The 24-year-old burst on the global scene like a meteor last year winning World 200m silver yet this season she really made a mark in the 100m running a blistering 10.70 at her national championships to equal Fraser-Pryce’s Jamaican record and climb to joint fourth on the all-time lists.
Dafne Schippers may have achieved her best results in the 200m, but as she proved when winning silver at year’s World Championships she is no slouch over the shorter distance.
There is little doubting the Dutchwoman’s blistering top-end speed, the big question is whether she can get away to a quick enough start to match many of her shorter more explosive rivals.
It is 20 years since a US athlete last won Olympic gold in this event (via Gail Devers at the Atlanta Games) and leading their quest for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is English Gardner, who recorded a blistering 10.74 to take the US title. With Diamond League victories in Eugene (note, not a Diamond Race event) and Birmingham the 2013 World fourth placer has a shot at ending the drought.
Tori Bowie ran a time of 10.78 to claim third spot at the US Trials and as a 2015 world bronze medallist she too will have genuine medal aspirations.
Completing the US trio is world long jump champion Tianna Bartoletta, who is also prodigious sprinter. The 30-year-old, who finished fourth in the 100m at the 2012 Olympic 100m final, recorded a PB of 10.78 at the US Trials to put her in the 100m frame in Rio.
Another danger is Murielle Ahoure, the 2013 World 100m silver medallist, who is seeking Ivory Coast’s second ever Olympic track and field medal. Ahoure ran a PB of 10.78 earlier in the season and was crowned African champion in Durban.
Among the other sub-11 second performers include Nigerian champion Blessing Okagbare, Trinidad’s Michelle-Lee Ahye, a fifth place finisher at last year’s World Championships, and the third string Jamaican Christania Williams. Watch out too for Marie-Josee Ta Lou of Ivory Coast who ran 10.96 to win at the London Diamond League.
The best of the rest include European silver medallist and 2004 Athens Olympic fourth place Ivet Lalova-Collio, African silver medallist Carina Horn of South Africa and Great Britain’s Desiree Henry.
Steve Landells for the IAAF