LONDON (AFP) –
The cream of men’s sprinting and Russian pole vaulting legend Yelena Isinbayeva will make their bow on the second day of the athletics programme of the Olympics on Saturday.
Defending Olympic champion Usain Bolt and Jamaican teammates Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell will run heats and round one of the 100m alongside US rivals Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin, with the semi-finals and final scheduled for Sunday.
The 100m remains the premier track and field event, and arguably of the whole Olympics, with an especially thrilling final in prospect in London.
“Everyone’s been waiting for this for four years. It’s going to live up to expectations,” said Blake, who edged Bolt in the Jamaican trials and has been tipped as a genuine title contender.
The women’s 100m gold will also be decided following Friday’s qualifying heats and a semi-final early in Saturday’s evening session.
In the women’s pole vault, double Olympic champion Isinbayeva will bid to safely negotiate qualifying for Monday’s final.
The 30-year-old Russian world record holder has suffered rare but bitter defeats during the last three seasons.
Isinbayeva heads to London boosted by gold in the 2012 World Indoor Championships but with another failure to clear 4.70m in the Monaco Diamond League meet on July 20.
“I’m physically and mentally ready for the Games, of course, but as a human, I’m worried like any other competitor,” said Isinbayeva, who failed to record a height in a tear-stained 2009 world championships in Berlin and came just sixth in last year’s worlds in Daegu, South Korea.
Home hopes will be riding with pin-up heptathlete Jessica Ennis, provided she safely negotiates Friday’s opening day.
The heptathletes will take part in the long jump and javelin in the morning session before completing the gruelling seven-discipline event with the 800m.
Another of Saturday’s six finals will see Ethiopian running star Kenenisa Bekele in the men’s 10,000m.
Bekele has not had an ideal run-in to the Games, and appears to have just the one medal chance in London, given he has been named as a replacement only for the 5,000m.
Events (qualifying heats unless specified)
100m, 400m, 400m hurdles; 10,000m (final), long jump (final), 20km walk (final)
400m, 3000m steeplechase, pole vault; 100m (final), heptathlon (final), discus (final)