The race is on for 2008’s most coveted title in track and field.
World record-holder Usain Bolt and former record-holder Asafa Powell, his speedy Jamaican teammate, won the first two heats on Friday morning as the track and field portion of the Beijing Games got under way at National Stadium.
Bolt crossed the finish line in 10.20 seconds. Powell’s time was 10.16.
Reigning world champion Tyson Gay of the United States won the sixth heat in 10.22 seconds.
The three men are expected to provide an electrifying showdown in Sunday night’s final, with the winner being crowned the World’s Fastest Man.
Great Britain’s Tyrone Edgar ran the quickest time of the first round (10.13) in the 80-man field. Japan’s Nobuhara Asahara’s 10.25 put him in 12th, good enough to advance to Friday’s second round. Thirty-eight runners advance, including Naoki Tsukahara (33rd, 10.39).
Shanahan Sanitoa of American Samoa placed 80th in 12.60.
Qualifier Churandy Martina of the Netherlands Antilles, didn’t seem to mind the fact the spotlight was focused on the three super speedsters.
“I’m happy with the attention being on them,” he said. “I just have to do what I do best. I’ll just try and be first in every race and I’ll be first in the final.”
Trinidad and Tobago qualifier Marc Burns understands the unwritten rule of athletics.
“The attention is focused on exceptional athletes,” Burns said.
In the women’s 800, Mozambique’s Maria Mutola, a four-time Olympic finalist, was victorious in the fourth heat in 1:58.91. The 35-year-old enters the semifinals with the top time.
This is Mutola’s sixth Olympiad. She made her debut at the 1988 Seoul Summer Games.
Did you know?: Fifty-two nations collected one or more medals in the first seven days of the Olympics.
Here’s hoping the figure reaches 100.
I asked one Chinese worker at the Main Press Center if one of her nation’s 22 gold medals in the first seven days was the most special to her.
She responded by saying, “All of them.”
Oh so close: Germany’s Per Sack failed to advance to the medal round of the men’s shot put competition. His third toss traveled 20.01 meters, while Russia’s Ivan Yushikov of Russia threw it 20.02, forcing Sack to take an early exit.
“I am unlucky,” Sack said after the Group B qualification round. “If I ranked one place higher, I would have been unable to qualify, but I (placed) 13th. I’m only one centimeter behind the 12th-place guy.”
Nervous youngster: Cameroon’s Antoinette Guedia is the youngest Olympian at the Beijing Games.
The 50-meter freestyle sprinter is 12 years, 10 months old. Her event includes one of the oldest well-known Olympians, U.S. veteran Dara Torres, a 41-year-old, five-time Olympian.
“It’s a bit overwhelming,” Guedia told reporters. “I’m little.”
The IOC has not set an age limit for Olympians. This means each nation must decide what the minimum age is for its athletes.
Guedia, who says she enjoys hip-hop music to help her relax, understands the significance of her accomplishment.
“To be here at my age is amazing,” Guedia said. “I’m proud.”
Mr. Versatile: Takeshi Matsuda, the bronze medalist in the men’s 200-meter butterfly on Thursday at the Water Cube, is one of the top all-around swimmers in Beijing.
After competing in the aforementioned race, Matsuda switched gears to the 1,500 freestyle heats on Friday evening. The final is on Saturday.
Matsuda, a Miyazaki Prefecture native, swam in the men’s 400 freestyle heats on Aug. 10.
Quotes of the day: “For me wearing a bikini is the best way to show my support and support for our sporting stars,” said Liu Rong, a 26-year-old fan attending the China-Switzerland women’s beach volleyball match on Thursday.
“I’m going to keep running and see what happens,” U.S. sprinter Walter Dix said after placing third in the 100-meter dash’s seventh heat on Friday morning to qualify for the next round.
Happy Flagstaff residents: Kosuke Kitajima’s victory in the men’s 200 breaststroke final on Thursday morning sparked celebrations halfway around the world.
When the event was finished and Kitajima had collected his fourth gold medal of the past two Olympiads, there was unbridled joy in Flagstaff, Ariz., home of Northern Arizona University’s Center for High Altitude Training. Call it a small-scale version of what took place in the streets of Tokyo.
“We were dancing last night as well for Kosuke,” said Sean Anthony, the interim director NAU’s training center, who has worked closely with Japan’s elite-level athletes for more than a decade.
Flagstaff, you may recall, has been Kitajima’s training center roughly two months a year for his entire adult life.
Today’s mystery: What exactly is the Emiction Surgery Centre?
Our shuttle bus drove passed by this place in morning en route to the Olympic venues.
Final thought: No word yet if Olympic organizers plan any special events to remember Elvis Presley, who died on Aug. 16, 1977.