When you dredge up your memories from Olympic Games’ of bygone years, the chances are that the immediate highlights you can pinpoint are those of track & field brilliance or drama. From Usain Bolt and Michael Johnson to Mo Farah and poor old Derek Redmond (ask your parents, kids), these are the most powerful images from more than a century of athletic action.
For sheer drama and intrigue, the track and field events at the Rio Olympics of 2016 look well stacked too. Can Bolt claim a third consecutive sprint triple crown? Will Mo Farah bag another long distance gold double and then celebrate with his Mobot which became slightly annoying back in 2012? Can David Rudisha blow minds in the 800m again? All of these questions, and more, will be answered from August 12-21 when the athletes take to the track in in Brazil.
Gatlin Gunning for Bolt
To the uninitiated, you might think that Usain Bolt has got the 100m, 200m and 4x100m gold medals sewn up, such has been his dominance of the sport in the last seven or eight years. He is the fastest man on the planet, of course, although a rival has emerged to challenge that mantel….
Justin Gatlin has recorded the two fastest 100m times this year, and at the 2015 World Championships was a mere 0.01 seconds behind Bolt in the race for gold. Clearly, the American has the ability to, for want of a better description, run as fast as the Jamaican.
It is believed that Bolt was still suffering from the effects of a torn hamstring as recently as July, and if that is the case then his preparations for Rio will surely have been less than ideal. And with Gatlin in such bullish form, it may be worth taking the 21/10 on the outside dethroning the sprint king in the final.
A nice opportunity has opened up in the 200m final too. In the ‘without Bolt/Gatlin’ market, LaShawn Merritt, who has recorded three of the four fastest times over the distance this year, looks an absolute steal at Evens.
Rudi Can’t Fail
World record holder, reigning world and Olympic champion and fastest man over 8000m in 2016….can anybody tell us why David Rudisha is available at a price as generous as 11/10 with a number of bookmakers?
The Kenyan’s achievement at London 2012 was spellbinding: he broke the world record, naturally, and became the first man in history to run the stretch in under 1:41. But to underline how fast he was, Brit Andrew Osagie, who finished eighth (last), was pulled along at such a pace that he would have won gold at any other Olympics in the time he ran!
Hep Hep Hooray for Ennis-Hill
What an achievement it is to have had a year off your sport to give birth to your first child, and then come back and win the World Championships as if nothing had happened.
But that’s exactly what Jessica Ennis-Hill accomplished last year after a sabbatical from the heptathlon, and now back amongst the full-time ranks she will be aiming to follow up her golden success at the London Games with victory here.
Competition could be fierce, however. The Canadian athlete Brianne Theisen-Eaton is a World Championship silver medallist who won the famous warm-up event in Götzis earlier this year – usually a pre-cursor to success in the Worlds or Olympics.
And then there’s another young Brit with hopes of glory. Katarina Johnson-Thompson has long been thought of as the natural heir to Ennis-Hill’s throne, and she almost shocked her senior Team GB partner at the World Championships before three fouls in the long jump ultimately put pay to her hopes of a podium finish. There is a feeling amongst those in the know that if KJT had improve her jumping in Rio she has a real chance of honours.
But at 6/4, it makes sense to back the world champion who is hungry for gold at what is likely to be her last Olympic Games appearance.