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2012 Summer Olympics: Previewing the Men's 100m Dash


Previewing the Men’s 100m Dash

The men’s 100m dash is arguably the highest profile event during the Olympics and the most watched 10 seconds in all of sports.  The winner earns the label “world’s fastest man” and instant stardom.  This race could very well be the most exciting 100m dash in history, with the five fastest men in history -Blake, Bolt, Gatlin, Gay and Powell- competing against each other in a well-matched field where anyone could win.

In Beijing, the only question entering the race was by what margin of victory Usain Bolt would win.  He remained untouchable in international competition until an Achilles tendon injury and lingering back pain set his training back in 2010, allowing Tyson Gay and other rivals the opportunity to catch up to Bolt.  Read as we break down the race for all five favorites to reach the podium complete with predictions.

5.  Justin Gatlin

2004 Olympic gold medalist Justin Gatlin still has an enormous cloud over his head following his 4-year ban from track-and-filed for testing positive for steroids.  In August 2010, Gatlin returned to competition a new man.  While posting times in the 10.1-10.2 range in his inaugural season back, Gatlin has improved dramatically since then to become a relevant force in the 100m dash despite his age. 

In 2012, Gatlin has sent a clear message to his competitors that he is 100% back and ready to win.  He won gold in the 60m at the World Indoor Championships and won the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 100m dash with a winning time of 9.80, better than the 9.85 that won him a gold medal in Athens.  He enters the London Olympics in the best shape of his life and with hopes of completing his redemption story with an Olympic medal. 

Best-case scenario:  Silver

Gatlin has been running very well this season but he’s going to need some help from his competitors if he hopes to win a gold or silver medal.  This event is still Usain Bolt’s to lose if he’s healthy (which is still a question mark).  However, if Gatlin comes out with a fast start like he did back in the Trials and at the Indoor World Championships, he will be very difficult to catch.

Worst-case scenario: 5th Place

Bolt, Blake, Gay and Powell have all posted faster 100m times than Gatlin’s annulled personal best of 9.77.  If everyone remains healthy, Gatlin will have to improve on his personal best time if he hopes to reach the podium.  Having recently turned thirty, such a performance may be out of the question.  

4.  Asafa Powell

Asafa Powell may be the greatest sprinter to never win the Olympic gold medal or the World Championship.  He held the 100m world record between June 2005 and May 2008 with a personal best of 9.72 seconds, making him the 3rd fastest man in recorded history.  His 80+ sub-10 second times in the 100m puts him at #1 all-time but this consistency has been sorely lacking in major competitions where Powell has famously choked, finishing in 5th in Athens and Beijing.  Asafa has only one major international individual title to his name, the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

In Jamaica’s Olympic Trials, Powell competed on an injured groin and was subsequently defeated by compatriots Blake and Bolt.  A lingering injury is the last thing that this aging sprinter needs as he’ll have to be at full-force to have any chance of finally matching his potential.

Best-case scenario: Bronze

Powell finally gets over his pre-race jitters and comes close to matching his personal best of 9.72 en route to a bronze medal.  Even with an ideal race, Powell will not be able to pull off the biggest upset and win a gold medal.  

Worst-case scenario: 8th Place

Powell’s groin injury is more serious than his agent let on and he barely makes it into the 100m final.  He continues his inability to translate his success onto the center stage and cement his status as one of most disappointing sprinters in Olympic history. 

3.  Tyson Gay

The second-fastest man in history (holds the American Record in 100m at 9.69s), Tyson Gay is Team USA’s best hope to win the 100m gold.  The antithesis of the boisterous, flashy Usain Bolt, Gay is introverted and allows his performance to speak for itself.  In Beijing, Gay failed to reach the finals of the 100m due to a nagging hamstring injury that purportedly setback his training.  

Gay has been plagued by injury throughout his professional career and will have to overcome last July’s hip surgery to contend for an Olympic medal.   He’s a proven competitor, and is only one of three sprinters to have defeated Usain Bolt since the Beijing Olympics.  Coming into London, Tyson is a bit of a wildcard due to the limited number of races he’s entered in 2012.  He’ll need to improve dramatically on his 9.86 at the Olympic Trials and return to his pre-injury form fast if Gay plans on winning the gold medal. 

Best-case scenario:  Gold Medal

Bolt’s injuries and reported low work ethic are worse than anticipated and his performance barely resembles the dominating display from Beijing.  Gay’s focus on training over racing pays off as he puts together a complete race and edges out favorite Yohan Blake for the gold medal.

Worst-case scenario:  5th Place

One year coming off of hip surgery, Tyson Gay is unable to regain his top form in time for the 100m final in London.  With a season-best time of 9.86 coming last month in Eugene, it may be asking too much for him to shave off somewhere between 0.1-.2 seconds to fulfill his Olympic promise.

2.  Yohan Blake

Until 22-year-old Yohan Blake bested his training partner Usain Bolt in Jamaica’s Olympic Trials last month, there was an asterisk attached to Blake’s gold medal at the 2011 World Championships where Bolt famously disqualified after a false start in the 100m final.  Nicknamed “The Beast”, Blake has worked tirelessly in preparation for the London Olympics where he hopes to emerge out of countryman Usain Bolt’s shadow.  Blake’s 9.75 100m at the Jamaican Olympic Trials solidified his place as the favorite in this event heading into London and ranks as the top time thus far in 2012. 

While Blake is the defending world champion, he was sitting at home watching back in 2008 when Bolt stole the show in Beijing by winning gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m.  His lack of experience and disdain for the limelight could spell trouble for this young sprinter. 

Best-case scenario: Gold Medal

In a field hampered by injuries (Bolt, Gay) and age (Gatlin, Powell), Blake’s youth works to his advantage as he is able to take control of the 100m final and win Olympic Gold.  With clear conditions on Sunday night, Blake could run as fast as the high 9.6s. 

Worst-case scenario: Bronze Medal

Blake’s youth gets the best of him and allows for him to concede both the gold and silver to more seasoned athletes.  In the six weeks between the Olympic Trials and the 100m final in London, Bolt makes tremendous strides in his training and regains his top form.  If Bolt and Gay are racing at full-strength, Blake will likely be edged out by the two more veteran sprinters who are the only two men to ever be legally timed under 9.70.

1.  Usain Bolt

Other than Carl Lewis, no 100m sprinter has ever successfully defended their gold medal in the subsequent Olympics.  Until about a year ago, the men’s 100m dash was expected to be a simple formality as the “superhuman” Bolt was expected to win in dominant fashion as he had in Beijing.  Much can change in a year however, as Bolt’s lingering back problems and technical errors have left him vulnerable for the first time since his breakthrough performance in the 2008 Olympics. 

Standing at 6ft 5in, Bolt is taller than the prototypical 100m sprinter.  He possesses rare leg speed for a man of his stature, allowing for him to achieve a similar starting speed to his shorter competitors.  After the initial acceleration phase, Bolt’s height gives him a mechanical advantage as his longer stride allows him to reach a higher peak velocity than his opponents. 

If Bolt is running at full force (with proper technique), no man on the planet will be able to touch him.  Bested by his training partner Yohan Blake at the Jamaican Olympic Trials, Bolt reportedly doubled his training efforts and has regained the top form that enabled him to demolish world records.  As the reigning Olympic champion, the race is still Bolt’s to lose.  Come Sunday, we’ll find out whether or not the superhuman version of Usain Bolt has returned.

Best-case scenario: New World Record

Usain Bolt has finally put his injury troubles behind him and puts together the greatest race in Olympic history as he demolishes the rest of the field and improves on his world record time of 9.58.  Bolt lives for the limelight so do not be astonished if he puts on another display of freak athletic prowess in London.

Worst-case scenario: Silver medal

Bolt’s injury woes and (rumored) lax training makes him just another strong competitor in a deep field in the 100m dash.  Bolt stumbles out of the blocks and is forced to chase the field from behind but cannot catch his training partner Blake. 

Predicted Finish

1. Yohan Blake (Jamaica)

2. Usain Bolt (Jamaica)

3. Justin Gatlin (United States)

4. Tyson Gay (United States)

5. Asafa Powell (Jamaica)

6. Christophe Lemaitre (France)

7. Kim Collins (Saint Kitts & Nevis)

8. Daniel Bailey (Antigua and Barbuda)