RIO DE JANEIRO – Two Japanese sprinters moved into the men’s 100-meter semifinal round as medal favorites Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin cruised on the second day of the Rio 2016 athletics competition on Saturday.
Aska Cambridge finished second in his heat behind Canada’s Andre de Grasse, but his time of 10.13 seconds was good enough to see him qualify and was only 0.03 off his personal best.
“I’m relieved to qualify, first and foremost,” said the Jamaica-born Cambridge who won his first Japanese title in June.
“It was just as I pictured, the first half wasn’t bad either. I’ve adjusted well and showed that in the heat.
“I’m looking forward to the next one. You don’t get to be in this atmosphere too often and it’s fun to run.”
One of Cambridge’s two other compatriots also made it through, with Ryota Yamagata more lucky than good as he scraped in with the tardiest time of the 24 qualifiers, a 10.20. Yamagata was fortunate to be drawn in the slowest heat of the day, in which he finished second from lane one.
“First of all, I just wanted to focus on the track ahead of me as I ran,” said Yamagata.
“Midway through, I got to a point where I began to falter, but overall it was a good race. I’m so happy to be able to be in this situation.”
Japan’s third runner, Yoshihide Kiryu, finished fourth in heat seven in 10.23 and missed the cut.
The United States’ Gatlin clearly held something back but still won his heat in the day’s fastest time of 10.01.
“I felt good. I think I’m going to have to run a bit faster to win this medal,” he said, before deflecting questions about U.S. swimmer Lily King’s disparaging comments on his history of doping.
“I don’t even know who Lilly King is. She does swimming and not track and field. I’m not worried about that. I have confidence in my policies that I’m with.”
Bolt ran through 90 meters in his heat before shutting off the jets, but still clocked the fourth fastest time of 10.07.
“It’s definitely going to be a good semifinals. There are a lot of guys running fast. So there’s going to be some stacked semifinals,” he said.
“It’s good. It gets you running and gets you up to speed to go out there in the finals.”
Yamagata will go in semifinal two on Sunday, the same race as Bolt, while Cambridge lines up in the lane next to Gatlin in the third race, which also contains Jamaica’s Yohan Blake, the London 2012 silver medalist who won his heat in 10.11 on Saturday.