5 August 2012

All Eyes Focused On Sunday's Blockbuster 100m Final

After the drama of Super Saturday heads now turn to a hyped men's 100 metres final that could go a number of different directions. Iconic Jamaican Usain Bolt will defend his title and world record but for the first time in a long time going into a major championship final there is a feeling that he can be beaten. His old rivals American Tyson Gay and fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell will be there with him hoping to finally get one over him in a major final. Neither Gay or Powell have beaten Bolt in a major final since 2007 when the American won the sprint double at the world championships.

Since then Bolt has dominated sprinting like no man ever before, winning three golds in Bejing and another three in 2009 in Berlin. In those world championships he broke both of the world records that he had set the previous year. Both of these still stand with his 100 metres record at 9.58 seconds and his 200 metres time at 19.19. However in the last year there have been signs that the 25-year-old's power is waning and he lost his world 100 metres title when he was disqualified for false-starting in Daegu. In that final his training partner and team-mate Yohan Blake won in a time of 9.92 seconds. That time would not usually be able to beat the three-time Olympic champion but since then Blake has gradually improved and he beat Bolt at the Jamaican trials in a new personal best of 9.75 seconds. He also defeated Bolt in the 200 metres and has come very close to the world record that many felt would never be beaten by running times of 19.40 and 19.26 this year.

While Blake will feel quietly confident of out-running his team-mate there are other men that will be holding high hopes of taking gold. It is clear that Bolt will be a deserving favourite with Blake close behind but the other sprinter from the small Carribean island, Asafa Powell, has held the world record before and was third at the Jamaican trials. His personal best is an impressive 9.72 seconds and regularly runs under 9.9 seconds but has struggled to perform to his best on the big stage. Despite suffering from pre-race anxiety he does have an Olympic gold to his name in the 100 metre relay and has won four world championship medals. His form this year has been solid if not spectacular and he could put previous Olympic disappointments behind him. 

Despite the majority of focus being on the Jamaican contingent sprinting has been traditionally dominated by the USA. They have lost their stranglehold on the show-piece athletics event somewhat over the last five years but both Gay and 2004 Olympic 100 metre champion Justin Gatlin have had good seasons and could push for a win tonight. The 2007 world champion Gay holds the American record and became the only man other than Bolt to have run under 9.7 seconds when he won in Shanghai in 2009 in 9.69 seconds. He has not been on his best form this year despite looking ominous at times but should not be ruled out as he could win with a good start and something to hold on to.

Olympic champion in Athens, Justin Gatlin, has come roaring back into athletics after serving a four-year ban for testing positive for a banned substance. After returning two years ago he has run under ten seconds regularly, winning the US Olympic trials in 9.80 seconds, the record for a man over 30. He has already beaten country-man Gay as well as Powell this year and has run sub-ten seconds three times this season. He will go into tonight's final as one of the favourites as he looks to win a fourth Olympic medal.

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