RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The sprint events are expected to draw most of the highlights at Rio 2016 in Brazil, as a wholesale of world-class sprinters have assembled in the city of Rio de Janeiro for one of the most anticipated Olympic Games ever.
Heading the list of superstars on the men’s side are Jamaicans Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake, Justin Gatlin and LaShawn Meritt, as well as Grenada’s Kirani James and South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk.
Without a doubt, the star attraction will be Bolt, who is hoping to become the first man to win three successive Olympic sprint treble in the men’s 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay.
The world record holder, by his standards, hasn’t entered Rio in his best form, but as we’ve seen in the past, especially in 2012 in London and last year at the World Championships in Beijing – once he’s healthy, the 29-year-old will be difficult to beat.
But as good as Bolt has been in the past, he isn’t expected to have a smooth ride towards another treble, as a number of top sprinters are gunning for his titles.
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Bolt, in most predictions, starts as the favourite to repeat as 100m champion, and after shaking off a minor hamstring problem, he recently suggested that he is in 9.60secs shape.
Could be scary, indeed.
American 2004 champion Gatlin, who is the world-leader at 9.80secs is expected to provide most of the challenge, base on what we’ve seen in the last two seasons.
However, USA’s World Indoor champion Trayvon Bromell, who won a bronze medal at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing 2015, as well as London 2012 double Olympic silver medallist, Yohan Blake of Jamaica, who is back in good shape, cannot be overlooked.
France’s Jimmy Vicaut, Jamaica’s Nickel Ashmeade and Canada’s Andre De Grasse and the evergreen Kim Collins of St. Kitts and Nevis, are some of the other medal hopefuls heading into Rio 2016.
Men’s 200m Preview
Over the years Bolt has stated that the 200m is his darling event.
The one he cherishes most of all.
This is why it would be difficult to see anyone dethroning him of his Olympic title without a gallant fight.
In his first and Olympic half-lap race this season at the London Aniversary Games last month, Bolt ran 19.89 (-0.3m/s) to prove to the world that he’s back to full fitness after being forced to withdraw from the Jamaica Trials.
Although he’s not making any time predictions for Rio 2016, the already sprint legend continues to state that he wants to be the first man to run sub-19 seconds in the 200m.
I think the world record of 19.19secs is safe, given that he’s missed so many training sessions with different setbacks this season, but when it comes to Bolt, most things are possible.
Waiting to dethrone the reigning champion is the world leader Merritt, who many genuinely believe has a very good chance of shocking the Olympic Stadium on Day 7 of the Games on Aug. 18.
Merritt, who will attempt the 200/400m double, heads the world list over 200m with a time of 19.74secs, and just finished behind Gatlin at the U.S. Trials last month in 19.79.
The 30-year-old has three sub-19.80 seconds performances over the 200m this season
Gatlin has the second-fastest time in the world this season, at 19.75secs, and should be a strong medal contender, while Blake, Antigua & Barbuda’s Miguel Francis, who has a personal best this year of 19.88, Panama’s Alonso Edward, Jamaica’s Ashmeade and Great Britain’s Adam Gemili, are all capable of winning places on the podium.
Men’s 400m Preview
Bolt will definitely be the star attraction in the sprints, but the men’s 400m dash could possibly be the most exciting event at Rio 2016.
Defending champion Kirani James, world champion Wayde van Niekerk and world-leader LaShawn Merritt, will enter the event in exceptional form, so much that it is too difficult at the moment to predict a winner.
The three, arguably, will be the medal battlers, but making a call as to how they will finish is quite challenging.
Merritt, the 2008 Beijing Olympic champion, has the quickest time in the world this season, at 43.97secs and is the only sub-44 secs runner on the term.
However, the American has dropped two quarter-mile races this campaign and both have gone to his arch rival James.
James first defeated Merritt at the Drake Relays in April and then at the Pre-Classic in May.
James, the London 2012 champion and world championships bronze medallist last summer, has been working on a few things this season and he believes everything will come together when the time is right.
Meanwhile, 2015 world champion Van Niekerk, who went to train alongside Bolt earlier this year to work on his speed, has shown that he will be no pushover in Brazil.
The South African has revealed what he can do already with his 44.11, as well as a blistering 31.03 over 300m in Kingston, Jamaica in June, and can be counted on to dip easily under 44-seconds in Rio.
Van Niekerk has three of the top six fastest times in the world this season, while James has four of the top 10 in 2016.
Besides the gold medal runaway favourites, close attention should also be placed on a number of young talents who have been making their marks in the last few seasons.
Former World junior champion Trinidad and Tobago’s 20-year-old Machel Cedenio, Botswana’s 19-year-old Baboloki Thebe, Grenada’s Bralon Taplin, Bahamas’ Steven Gardiner, 19-year-old Abdallelah Haroun of Qatar and Jamaica’s 21-year-old Javon Francis, are all ready to make statements at Rio 2016 this summer.