RIO DE JANEIRO – In terms of global interest, the activities on Saturday night at Olympic Stadium felt like a warmup for Sunday night, when Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin, among others, will duel for gold in the 100 meters.
Bolt is trying to become the first man ever to win the 100 meters for the third straight Olympics. He’s also trying to win the 200 meters and the 400-meter relay for the third time in three Olympics. Gatlin has outperformed Bolt this season, as Bolt has dealt with injuries, but Bolt loves the spotlight.
“It wasn’t the best start, it felt kind of sluggish,” Bolt said after his heat. “I’m not used to running this early in the morning in any championships.”
Bolt finished in 10.07 seconds. The USA’s Gatlin finished in 10.01 seconds, the fastest time of the first round. He won his heat by .19 seconds, a wide margin in such a short race.
“It felt good — in control,” Gatlin told NBC. “Coach told me to go out there, control the race from the beginning, stay tall to the end and just get ready for the next day.”
Trayvon Bromell finished second in his heat in 10.13 seconds. It was the first Olympic race for the 21-year-old U.S. sprinter. “Now I got the jitters out of the way, I’m ready to keep moving forward,” Bromell told NBC.
The USA’s Marvin Bracy finished third in his heat. The two fastest runners in each heat automatically advanced to the semifinals. Bracy advanced by ranking as one of the next eight fastest runners.
Canada’s Andre De Grasse, the 2015 world championsips 100-meter bronze medalist, and Jamaica’s Yohan Blake, the 2012 Olympic 100-meter silver medalist, also won 100-meter heats.
Former Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best, who once showed off at TCF Bank Stadium vs. the Gophers, raced in the same heat as Usain Bolt. He became the first athlete to compete in track and field at an Olympics after playing in the NFL. He did not advance.
The semifinals and final of the 100 meters will be held Sunday night.
In the women’s 100 meter final on Saturday, Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson ran a 10.71 to beat the USA’s Tori Bowie, who finished in 10.83. Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who was trying to win a third consecutive gold in the Olympic 100, finished third, leaving Bolt with a chance to become the first Olympian ever to attain that feat.
“Jamaica has so many talented sprinters,” Thompson said. “To be the second champion, I’m really happy.”
Despite not defending her title, Fraser-Pryce was proud of her bronze medal.
“By far, I would say this is my best championship ever,” Fraser-Pryce said. “I knew how hard I worked, I knew the pain, I knew the sacrifice, I knew the tears, I knew everything.”
American English Gardner was disappointed with her seventh-place finish. “I don’t know how to feel right now,” Gardner said. “Something internally was wrong, and I’m going to have to figure it out.”
In the 10,000 meters, Mo Farah used his famous closing kick to become the first British Olympian to win three gold medals in track and field. He tripped midway through the race, got to his feet, flashed a thumb’s-up sign, and went on to win with a dominant burst on the last lap.
In the long jump, Jeff Henderson won gold with his last leap, after Al Joyner gave the the gold medal that he won in the triple jump in 1984 to his fellow American.
Henderson held onto it momentarily for luck, then gave it back, and dedicated the win to his mother, who he said is bedridden with Alzheimer’s. “This is for her,” Henderson said. “For her, for my country, and for God.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.