Track and field, the most primal of Olympic competitions and the sport that will award the most medals, is underway, and its signature event, the men's 100m, will be held Sunday.
The 100m attracts the greatest field of runners and seems to require of its competitors a larger-than-life view of themselves. They are, after all, competing for the title of world's fastest. Some say Sunday's 4:455 p.m. ET race could be the greatest ever.
The favorite is Jamaican Usain Bolt, the defending Olympic champion and holder of the world record. At 6 foot 4, Bolt usually towers over his competitors and often rubs his dominance in their faces. At the Beijing games, he began his victory lap before even crossing the finish line, screaming and pumping his fists. He often dances for the television cameras and takes aim with an imaginary archer's bow.
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His stiffest competition this year comes from his teammate and training partner, Yohan Blake, who is only slightly more reserved. He showed up at a press conference a few days ago wearing a t-shirt that said "Eat my dust." Blake shocked the world last month when he beat Bolt in the 100m – and 200m – at the Jaimaican Olympic trials.
The competition also includes Americans Justin Gatlin, who won the gold in 2004 and is competing in his first Games since coming back from a four-year suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, and Tyson Gay, who beat Bolt in 2010 but is coming off hip surgery and has never managed to medal at the Olympics. Another contender: Asafa Powell of Jamaica, who once held the world record for three years but has been notoriously disappointing in Olympic races.
The odds makers at Ladbrokes have Bolt as an 8/11 favorite, followed by Blake, Gay, Gatlin and Powell. Regardless of who wins, it'll be over before you can get from your couch to your fridge and back, so just sit back and watch.
Although they attract the most hype, the male sprinters are by no means the only athletes to watch. The track and field meet, features 2,000 athletes running, jumping and throwing in 47 total events.
- Lolo Jones is the kind of story TV producers dream about: raised in crushing poverty that found her and her five siblings living in a church basement, ultimately moving in with a succession of other families so she could pursue track, only to stumble over the ninth hurdle and plummet from first to seventh place at the 2008 games. Oh, and she's gorgeous… And a virgin, which is none of our business but sure seemed to excite a lot of folks... until she invited an Oregon U. student to join her in the tub. Qualifying rounds begin Monday morning.
- Sanya Richards-Ross is Jamaican-born but runs for the red, white and blue and is the wife of Jacksonville Jaguars defensive back Aaron Ross. She is the favorite to win the 400m and will run in the 200m as well. If she wins both, she'd be only the third woman ever to do so, joining Valerie Briscoe-Hooks and France's Marie-José Pérec. The finals will be run at 4:10 p.m. ET Sunday.
- Allyson Felix’s showdown with Veronica Campbell Brown in the 200m is one of the most anticipated races in London. Felix, an American, and Campbell Brown, a Jamaican, have been trading positions as the world’s top and second-ranked sprinters for years. Felix has won three world championships, but never a gold. She won silvers in Athens and Beijing. Qualifying rounds begin Monday.
- Oscar Pistorius, aka The Blade Runner. Pistorius, a South African, had to fight for the right to compete in the London Olympics because he runs on prosthetic carbon-fiber limbs. Born without fibulae, Pistorius had his legs amputated below the knee when he was a year old, and for a long time has been a star in the Paralympics. His second-place finish in the 400-meter heat Saturday morning made him the first amputee to compete in track at the Olympics.The semifinal heats will be run at 3:40 p.m ET Sunday.