Tyson Gay, Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell remained on course for an epic three-way battle in track's marquee Olympic event, all easily advancing into the semi-finals of the 100 meters.
Running in ideal conditions, Gay allayed fears that a lingering hamstring strain would affect his performance at the Beijing Games, coasting in both his heat and quarter-final to go through.
The world champion injured his hamstring at the U.S. trials six weeks ago and had not run competitively since, raising doubts about his fitness.
He finished second behind Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago in his quarterfinal in 10.09 seconds, easing up well before the finishing line.
"I felt good and relaxed. I just wanted to make it through," Gay said.
No one was as awesome as Bolt, though. At the halfway mark the world record-holder from Jamaica eased up, looked left and right — not once, but twice — and with 9.92 still ran the fastest time ever in China.
"I just ran the first 50 meters. Then I looked around to make sure I was safe and I shut it off," Bolt said.
Under the Olympic flame and with 91,000 at the Bird's Nest, he felt as confident and loose as his canary yellow shirt flapping in the still, humid air. If ever there was a man to beat for the title, it was this 21-year-old sprinter who burst onto the scene seemingly out of nowhere this season.
He was known for his 200 credentials and remains a favorite for that race, too. Unlike Gay, Bolt is going for a sprint double and, considering the strength of the Jamaican team, could end with three golds after the 4x100 relay.
Powell, who had been the world record holder coming into the season, also moved through with consummate ease, clocking 10.02 in the last of the quarterfinals.
To show the potential of Saturday's final, the three together own the eight fastest times in history.
Even if he came through his races OK, Gay faces two more intense 100s in the next 24 hours, increasingly testing the physical resistance of his hamstring.
His last race had been a wind-aided 9.68, the fastest time ever — even though it could not be ratified as a record.Reuse content