LONDON – Caribbean runners bid to expand their dominance of the shorter track distances on Monday, after Jamaica’s Usain Bolt ran the second quickest 100 metres ever to swat aside any doubt that he is still the fastest man on Earth.
Bolt’s gold put him on course for a unique double-double of in 100m and 200m races at successive Games, and kept Jamaica on track for a second sweep of individual sprint medals after Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce retained her women’s 100m crown.
Fraser-Pryce lines up in the first round of the 200m on Monday alongside her team mate and defending champion Veronica Campbell-Brown, and American challengers Allyson Felix and 100m silver medallist Carmelita Jeter.
Meanwhile, 19-year-old world champion Kirani James from the Caribbean island of Grenada looks in commanding form for the 400m final, with almost all the fastest qualifiers coming from the region, apart from the Belgian identical twins Jonathan and Kevin Borlee. Reigning champion LaShawn Merritt of the United States is injured.
And Javier Culson is aiming to become the first person from Puerto Rico to win an Olympic medal in the men’s 400m hurdles final, having come into the Games with the world’s fastest time.
But the race looks tight, with 2004 champion Felix Sanchez, a national hero in the neighbouring Dominican Republic, surprisingly beating Culson’s time in qualifying.
America’s Angelo Taylor, at 33 a year younger than Sanchez, is bidding to become the first man to win three Olympic 400m hurdles titles after gold in 2000 and 2008.
WIND AND RAIN
Hundreds of Jamaicans braved the wind and heavy rain of a gathering tropical storm to watch outdoor screenings of Bolt’s final on Sunday, some stopping their cars in traffic to do so.
“I can’t drive off now, man,” one motorist told a policeman trying to get traffic to move. “Give me a ticket if you want, but I am going to watch that race on that big screen.”
Bolt’s training partner Yohan Blake took the silver medal in Sunday night’s final to make it a Jamaican one-two on the eve of the island’s 50th anniversary of independence from Britain.
Some had doubted that Bolt had it in him to win a repeat gold in the blue riband sprint after suffering back problems, getting himself disqualified for a false start in last year’s world championship and losing to Blake in the Jamaican trials.
But even after a safety-first start, he blitzed his way down the track to win in 9.63 seconds, an Olympic record and the second fastest time on record behind his own world best of 9.58. American Justin Gatlin took bronze.
Bolt kissed the ground and then leant back and pointed to the sky in his trademark ‘lightning bolt’ salute before basking in adulation on a lap of honour, draped in the Jamaican flag.
“Some of you guys doubted me,” the 25-year-old told reporters. “I just had to show the world I was the greatest.
THIRD TIME LUCKY
Sanya Richards-Ross of the United States won 400 gold on Sunday at the third time of asking, and Kenya extended its dominance in the steeplechase, with 2004 champion Ezekiel Kemboi seizing his title back after fellow Kenyan, defending champion Brimin Kipruto, fell.
Another of Monday’s highlights will be Russian Yelena Isinbayeva’s bid for a third successive gold in the women’s pole vault.
Traditionally an Olympic powerhouse, Russia have had a disappointing Games, lying ninth in the overall medals table with just four golds.
China are top with 30 golds, having overtaken the United States on 28, while hosts Britain gained two more on Sunday to lie third with 16.
Away from the athletics stadium, Jason Kenny tries to extend Britain’s dominance in the velodrome, where they have won four of six events so far, and will start the last two individual sprint rounds as favourite ahead of France’s Gregory Bauge.
A home crowd will also be rooting for Beth Tweddle, the doyenne of Britain’s gymnastics team at 27, to win her country’s first ever gymnastics gold in the final of the asymmetric bars, her signature apparatus.