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Ten Days of Athletics at the Beijing Games

14 August 2008

The Olympic rings at the opening ceremonies for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games at National Stadium. The Olympic rings at the opening ceremonies for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games at National Stadium.
Dave Ungrady

Starting Friday, the top athletics athletes from around the world will command the main Olympic stage at the Beijing Games. Hundreds of athletes will compete in 47 events on the roads, track and fields.

Universal Sports has previewed one highlighted event per day along with a few others we feel also deserve mention.

Day 1, August 15
Menís Shot Put
A sweep by the Americans would not be a surprise in this event. Adam Nelson, Reese Hoffa and Christian Cantwell are ranked among the top four in the world. Nelson, whoís number 1, won silver at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games. He fouled on five of his six throws in 2004 and led the competition up to the last round. If there is Olympic justice, Nelson wins. Hoffa, the 2007 outdoor world champion, is his main threat.

Day 2, August 16
Menís 100
This marquee Olympic event should provide the most compelling moments of these Games on the track. World record holder Usain Bolt of Jamaica, former world record holder Asafa Powell of Jamaica and 2007 world champion Tyson Gay of the United States are the favorites, although Gayís fitness is in question due to a recent hamstring injury.

Day 3, August 17
Womenís 100
The top five finishers at the 2007 world championships race were separated by .04 seconds, and the Olympics 100-meter final should be just as close. Itís anybodyís race among Lauryn Williams, Torri Edwards and Muna Lee of the United States and Kerron Stewart, Shelly Ann Fraser and Sharon Simpson of Jamaica. Theyíre all among the top-seven ranked runners in the world.

Day 4, August 18
Womenís pole vault
Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia has lost just once since July of the 2004 season, and itís unlikely she will lose in Beijing. The attention-embracing star has also set 23 world records, the most recent of 5.04 meters set on July 29.
American Jenn Stuczynski should provide the sternest challenge to the Russian icon. She jumped an American record 4.92 meters at the U.S. Olympic trials and is one of only three women in history to vault over 16 feet.

Day 5, August 19
Menís 1,500
Bernard Lagat of the United States has won Olympic silver and a bronze in this event and is primed to finally win gold. Heís not among the top 20 in the world this year, but heís run the event sparingly, is the defending world champion and at 33 years old is the best tactician in the field. A group of young Kenyans that include world leader Daniel Kipchirchir Komen along with Augustin Choge and Asbel Kiprop, all ranging in age from 19 to 23, will push Lagat.

Day 6, August 20
Menís 200
Bolt finished second in the 200 meters at the 2007 world championships behind Gay. With Gay not competing in the event in Beijing, a resurgent Shawn Crawford of the United States, the 2004 Olympic champion, should provide the strongest challenge to Bolt. Walter Dix and Wallace Spearmon, Jr. of the United States should also contend for a medal.

Day 7, August 21
110 hurdles
Dayron Robles of Cuba finished second in his first outdoor race of the season, but heís been unbeatable since then. His dominance includes a world record 12.87 on June 17. The man who beat the 22-year-old Robles, American David Oliver, has the second best time in the world this year at 12.95. Another American, Terrence Trammell, is ranked third and has won the last two Olympic silver medals in the event.
Liu Xiang of China, the former world record holder and 2004 Olympic champion, has not competed since May due to injury but should still be a factor.

Also: Defending Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner and LaShawn Merritt, both Americans, should stage a fierce battle for gold in the menís 400 meters and could lead a U.S. sweep. And in the womenís 200 meters, 2004 silver medalist Allyson Felix will try for her first Olympic gold against a trio of Jamaicans led by Veronica Campbell Brown, the world leader and the 2004 Olympic champion.

Day 8, August 22
American Bryan Clay won silver at the 2004 Athens Games and is the favorite in Beijing. He amassed the worldís best total this year, 8832, at the U.S. Olympic trials, some 300 points better than his nearest competitor. The 2005 world champion appears to be healthy after two years of physical setbacks. Olympic and world champion Roman Sebrle of the Czech Rebublic has struggled with injury the last few months.

Also: Ethiopians Meseret Defar and Tirunesh Dibaba should content for gold in the womenís 5,000 meters, but watch out for American Kara Goucher. And the USA and Jamaica teams should stage entertaining battles in the menís and womenís 4x100 meters relays.

Day 9, August 23
Womenís 1,500 final
With several Russian runners out due to doping violations, American Shannon Rowbury and 2007 world champion Maryan Yusuf Jamal of Bahrain are top gold medal contenders. Rowbury has been a surprise this season, improving on her personal best by some 12 seconds. She is now ranked second in the world behind Jamal among Olympic eligible runners.

Also: In the 4x400 meters relay, the U.S. should dominate the menís race while the Americans, Jamaica and Russia should stage a close battle in the womenís event.

Day 10, August 24
Menís marathon
Ethiopian and Kenyan runners are the favorites. Deribe Merga (2:06:38) and Tsegaye Kebebe (2:06:40) lead Ethiopia against Kenyasís Martin Lel (2:05:15), a three-time London winner and twice New York City champion, and Sammy Wanjiru (2:05.24). And watch out for American Ryan Hall, who ran a personal best 2:06.17 at London this year in only his third marathon race.

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