Fri, September 20, 2013

Olympic stadium ready for Usain Bolt

By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency


Usain Bolt will be the most watched athlete as the track and field events get underway Friday

LONDON - They can row and swim and dive all they want, but it is when Olympic Stadium opens for business that the Games get serious.

As London 2012 nears its midway point, the track and field events begin here Friday which means the arrival of Usain Bolt, the Jamaican superstar and showstopper from Beijing four years ago, is just around the corner.

Bolt, who electrified the world four years ago with his world-record performance in the 100 metres and complementary golds in the 200 metres and 4x100 metre relays, will attempt to repeat those feats in what are certainly being billed as the marquee moments of these Games.

His first action will be on Saturday in heats for the 100 leading to Saturday night’s final in what promises to be an electric crowd at the Olympic Stadium.

With the somewhat underwhelming performance of American swimmer Michael Phelps during the first week — although he did win gold again on Thursday — and no truly captivating events, London 2012 is ready for Bolt and the engaging stage show that won over so many four years ago. Bolt is also bidding to join Carl Lewis (1984 and 1988) as just the second sprinter to win the world’s fastest man title in the 100 at back-to-back Games.

As has been the trend in recent Olympics, it isn’t expected to be a bountiful Games for a Canadian team that has perhaps two legitimate medal shots.

Both of those will be in action on opening day with shot putter Dylan Armstrong expected to challenge for the podium spot he just missed on four years ago and Jessica Zelinka ranked in the top six of the women’s heptathlon.

Canada will send its largest team since 1988, but it’s a young and inexperienced one with 37 of the 45 being Olympic rookies. Medal hopes would have been at least one higher had one or both of the country’s top hopes — 100-metre hurdlers Perdita Felicien and 2008 Olympic bronze medallist Priscilla Lopes-Schliep — hadn’t blew it at the Canadian trials in Calgary.

That said, Athletics Canada head coach Alex Gardiner believes a Canadian team that has won just one medal in the past two Games is headed in the right direction.

“I don’t think we’ve been in better position since 1988,” Gardiner said on Thursday. “As a team, we are ready to compete.”

MARQUEE TRACK EVENTS

No. 1: 100-metre final on Saturday

Can Usain Bolt beat countryman Yohan Blake and a host of talented Americans to retain his title? Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.

No. 2: 200-metre final on Thursday, Aug. 9

Will the individual double still be alive for Bolt or will he be looking to avenge a miscue

No. 3: Men’s shot put on Friday

On the opening day of the meet, Canadian Dylan Armstrong has the country’s top medal hope in the men’s shot put.

No. 4: Women’s 100-metre hurdles on Tuesday

Three Canadians are in the field but most of all, proven world class stars Perdita Felicien and Priscilla Lopes-Schliep will watch in pain from home as they failed to qualify.

No. 5: Men’s marathon on Sunday, Aug. 12

One of the more popular events of the Games, much of it will be run past iconic sights in the heart of London. Three Canadians are in the field.

rob.longley@sunmedia.ca

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