Olympics track: Five story lines

  • Updated: July 22, 2012 - 9:43 PM

Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake

Photo: Urs Flueeler, Associated Press

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1 Will Bolt be best?

Yohan Blake, Usain Bolt's Jamaican countryman, workout partner and rival, beat the World's Fastest Man in the 100- and 200-meter finals at Jamaica's Olympic trials, leading many to wonder how Bolt -- who entered three events, won three gold medals and set three world records in the process at the Beijing Games in 2008 -- will fare four years later. "He's very determined and he wants to win," Bolt said about Blake, "and that keeps pushing me." Bolt's world records are 9.58 seconds in the 100, and 19.19 in the 200. Blake ran a personal-best 9.75 at trials and has a 19.26 in the 200.


The United States led all nations with 23 medals in Beijing, but that matched the country's second-lowest total since 1992, and two medals were squandered when both 4x100-meter relay teams dropped the baton. So instead of celebrating after Beijing, the U.S. track team returned home and tried to regroup. The result: "Project 30," a boldly stated mission to win 30 medals in London -- a goal that leaders of the track team have only tepidly embraced since former CEO Doug Logan was fired not long after setting it. "That's a 'reach' goal," said the new CEO, Max Siegel. "But I'm very confident we'll have a good showing over in London."


For sheer intrigue in the men's 400, all eyes will be on Oscar Pistorius of South Africa. Pistorius is a double amputee and runs on carbon-fiber blades. After years of pleading his case in hearing rooms and months of trying to earn a spot on his country's team, he'll become the first amputee runner to compete in an Olympics. "Today is truly one of the proudest days of my life," Pistorius said on July 4, when he was named to the team to run in both the individual 400 and the 4x400-meter relay.


The host nation's track hopes will be vested in Mo Farah, the Somalia-born long-distance runner who arrived in London from Mogadishu at the age of 8. He is the reigning world champion at 5,000 meters and runner-up at 10,000. Farah has been training in Oregon, in part to stay under the radar before the London Games. "Head down and concentrating," Farah said of his preparations.


In the 800 meters, Caster Semenya of South Africa makes her Olympic debut, three years after questions about her gender forced her to undergo tests and drop out of competition for nearly a year before track's governing body cleared her to race again. She was the silver medalist at last year's world championships.



• Competition runs Aug. 3-12

• Semifinals and finals in the men's 100 meters are Aug. 5

• Melrose native Amanda Smock competes in the women's triple jump. Prelims are Aug. 3 and the finals are Aug. 5.

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