Bolt and Murray set for Super Sunday
The fastest man on the planet defends his 100m title on the track today, while Britain's top tennis player has the chance to win not one but two Olympic gold medals
Sunday 05 August 2012
It is the most eagerly awaited Olympic event in the world: the final of the men's 100m. Tens of millions will tune in tonight to see whether the world record holder, Usain Bolt, can become the first man since the American Carl Lewis, in 1988, to defend his Olympic 100m title.
To do so, the 25-year-old Jamaican will have to see off the challenge of his younger team-mate, the world champion Yohan Blake, who beat Bolt at the Jamaican Olympic trials in June. In yesterday's first round, Blake ran the faster of the two, in 10 seconds flat. However, both were slower than the American Ryan Bailey, who equalled his personal best time of 9.88 seconds.
A quarter of Brits are expected to watch what could be the first final in which all eight competitors run under 10 seconds. But nowhere will the excitement be greater than in Jamaica. Boasting three of the four fastest men on the planet – the former world record holder Asafa Powell is also expected to line up alongside Bolt and Blake – the Caribbean island could become the first country in 100 years to take home all three medals in the men's 100m.
It was the US that last achieved that feat, in Stockholm in 1912, and Americans Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin will be among those hoping to spoil a Jamaican party a day ahead of celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the island's independence from Britain.
The champagne is on ice at Usain Bolt's Tracks & Records, a bar restaurant in Jamaica's capital, Kingston, part-owned by the sprinter. Hundreds of people are expected to crowd around 24 big screens there today, with the added incentive of free Red Stripe beer every time a Jamaican wins gold. The bar will also serve rum cocktails created in Bolt's honour, along with his favourite jerk chicken spring rolls.
Nick Taylor, general manager at Tracks & Records, said the chances of a Jamaican one-two-three were excellent and would be "a dream come true". The atmosphere on the island is "electric", he added, with everybody in a state of "high anticipation".
"It [the 100m] means everything," he said. "For such a small country to be having such a huge impact on an international stage … we are very proud. If we win the 100m, the medal ceremony is on Monday, our independence day, and would be something special."
For a country with a population of fewer than three million, "the sprint factory" has punched – or, rather, run – above its weight in recent years. The Jamaican men will be hoping to emulate the success of the country's female 100m sprinters in Beijing in 2008, when Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart enjoyed a clean sweep of the medals. Fraser-Pryce retained the women's 100m crown in London last night, with a fellow Jamaican, Veronica Campbell-Brown, in third.
Jamaica has performed well on the track since its first appearance at the Olympics in 1948, when Arthur Wint took gold in the 400m ahead of his team-mate Herb McKenley. Michael Fennell, Jamaica Olympic Association president, said this legacy of good running had inspired a lot of generations.
Whereas much of the country's early success came in the 400m and 800m, the majority of its dominance in recent years has come over 100m and 200m. Mr Fennell said, over time, the quality of Jamaica's coaching had improved considerably and coaches were applying proper running techniques from an early stage with young people, which helps Jamaica to hold on to its talent.
"The coaches here are one reason for staying [and not moving away from Jamaica]," he said. "Another is that we do have regular competitions that are properly organised on a frequent basis, whereas in the old days you'd have to go abroad to participate in such competitions, and training by itself without regular competitive activity would be of no use. The other important thing is the education system in Jamaica is changing, with the academic side being [more] linked to sports. Our athletes have better opportunities for improving their education right at home."
Jamaican children compete on a big stage from a young age. The annual Champs, a kind of large-scale sports day, is a highlight of the country's sporting calendar. Bolt competed at the event as a teenager in front of tens of thousands of people; tonight, millions around the globe will watch him run.
Andy Murray will be going for double Olympic glory today as he takes on Roger Federer at Wimbledon, four weeks after the Swiss player beat him to the grand slam title there. The tennis rivals meet in the men's singles final. Murray is also teaming up with Laura Robson for the mixed doubles final. Team GB is now guaranteed at least silver in both events.
Murray's Olympic singles final comes exactly four weeks after Federer beat him at the All England Club, reducing him – and the nation – to tears. But the Scottish ace says he is not going into today's encounter thinking of revenge.
However, he will want to boost the GB team gold tally with victory. Murray has won eight of their 16 meetings and goes into the match in impressive form. He reached his first Olympic final by sweeping past the Serbian world No 2 Novak Djokovic 7-5 7-5 in front of a noisy home crowd in Friday's semi-final. Federer had a tougher time reaching the final, eventually overcoming Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro 3-6, 7-6, 19-17.
For all Federer's success, today's match on Centre Court will also be a first Olympic singles final for the world No 1, who won gold for Switzerland in Beijing in 2008 partnering Stanislas Wawrinka in the men's doubles. Murray, who went out in the first round in the singles four years ago, will be hoping this will work to his advantage: as the Scot points out, usually when he plays Federer the Swiss player has experienced the situation many more times than he has.
Murray, 25, the world No 4, and Robson, 18, reached the mixed doubles final by beating German pair Sabine Lisicki and Christopher Kas in a match tie-break in yesterday's semi-final. They won 6-1, 6-7 (9/7), 10-7 on Court One over opponents who have both reached semi-finals at Wimbledon in the past.
That victory came just hours after the British pair pulled off an unexpected 6-3, 3-6, 10-8 quarter-final win on Centre Court over Australian duo Lleyton Hewitt and Samantha Stosur, both grand slam singles champions.
"Winning any sort of medal at the Olympics, especially a home Olympics, will be really something quite special," said Robson after the quarter-final win. "Andy has a chance to do it in the singles as well, so hopefully we can do both."
The Melbourne-born teenager, who was chosen as Murray's partner ahead of British No 1 Heather Watson, had no sympathy for the Australians she helped to beat. "I never lived in Melbourne so I don't have any soft spot," she said. "I'm happy we won, and we beat them in the rowing this morning."
Row over sprint tickets
British sports fans will make up less than half of the capacity crowd in the Olympic Stadium as the fastest men on the planet compete in tonight's 100m final. Organisers risk reigniting the row over ticketing after admitting that just 30,000 of the 80,000 seats for one of the biggest nights of the Games have gone to the British public. A quarter of the tickets for this evening, when Usain Bolt will defend his 100m title, have been reserved for the Olympic family: officials, sports federations and sponsors. Jackie Brock-Doyle, a spokesman for London 2012, said: "We have 60,000 saleable seats in the stadium, 50% of them are going to the British public."
However, organisers would not give a more detailed breakdown of how seats have been allocated until after the event. The sale of tickets has become a subject of contention after rows of empty seats were spotted at "sold-out" events. The issue sparked huge criticism and led Games organisers to put thousands of unused tickets for sale online.
Despite efforts to resell unwanted corporate tickets, last week it emerged one in five seats were still empty. Leonardo Gryner, head of Brazil's Olympic Committee, yesterday boasted that Rio 2016 would avoid making the same mistakes. "We proposed a programme called 'Full Stadium', with ideas to keep stadiums full and to create opportunities for the people around the arenas to get inside as soon as we realise there are empty seats."
Day nine: Sporting feasts
Athletics: women's 400m
9.10pm: Beijing gold medallist and Briton Christine Ohuruogu will be determined to defend her Beijing 400m title in the finals at the Olympic stadium. The 28-year-old, who was born less than a mile from the Olympic Stadium, has had some setbacks over the past two years, including injury and a false start at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. The east Londoner sailed through the heats and is thought to be in a good position to take the top prize, having already showcased some of the best sporting ability since her last win four years ago.
1.30pm Russia's Elena Savelyeva and North Korea's Hye Song Kim will make history when they meet in the ring today, becoming the first female boxers to compete at an Olympics Games. Thirty-six female boxers from 23 different nations, fighting across three weight divisions, will compete in London. Lightweight Natasha Jonas will begin Team GB women's campaign an hour later, while Irish reigning world champion Katie Taylor will make her debut tomorrow.
2pm British sailor Ben Ainslie is on course to win a historic fourth gold medal in the men's finn medal race in Weymouth, establishing himself, at the finish line, as the greatest sailor in Olympic history. The three-time gold medal winner must finish in front of Dane Jonas Hogh-Christensen to secure the win and no worse than seventh if Dutchman Pieter-Jan Postma wins the finale.
3.41pm Just as the men's singles final starts at Wimbledon, Louis Smith will take to the artistic gymnastics pommel horse in the final at North Greenwich Arena. Smith became Britain's first Olympic gymnastics medallist for 80 years when he won a bronze at the Beijing Games. Fresh from winning another bronze in the final of the men's artistic team competition on Monday, expectations are high.
6.10pm Moving into the Velodrome, Yorkshireman Ed Clancy, who won gold with the men's pursuit team on Friday night, is in pursuit of another top medal for Britain in the final event of six disciplines in the omnium. Clancy bagged a gold medal at the Beijing Games as part of the team pursuit quartet, including Bradley Wiggins, and secured another win in the omnium at last year's European Track Championships.
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