Ezekiel Kemboi in the 3000m steeplechase at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Expected highlights on day six – Rio 2016 Olympic Games

The sixth day of athletics at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games will see four more champions made. Here are five things to look out for on the sixth day of action in the Olympic stadium.

Sweep potential for Kenya

The men’s steeplechase final (11:50 local time) pits Conseslus Kipruto, the best in the world this year, against Ezekiel Kemboi, the best championship performer of this generation.

Kipruto has won every race on the IAAF Diamond League circuit this year without looking at maximum effort. His 8:00.12 win in Birmingham ranks him No.1 in the world.

Kemboi, on the other hand, has finished outside the top 10 in both of his IAAF Diamond League appearances this year. But he is a man for the big stage: he won Olympic gold in 2004 and 2012, and last year he picked up his fourth world title.

Yet both were beaten at the Kenyan trials by Brimin Kipruto, who also beat Kemboi to the 2008 Olympic title. Based on form and experience, the gold should go to one of the trio. However, France’s Mahiedine Mekhissi, who won his fourth European title last month, and US champion Evan Jager, who booked his spot in the final with a win in his heat, could break up a Kenyan sweep.

Reese wants a piece of history

No woman has successfully defended an Olympic long jump title. That is Brittney Reese’s aim in the final, which starts at 21:15.

When the US long jumper won world indoor gold in Portland in March, she became the most decorated female long jumper in history. In July she won the US Trials with 7.31m, the best jump by any woman in 14 years. She needed just one jump to make it through qualifying and is the favourite for gold.

Brittney Reese in the long jump at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images)Brittney Reese in the long jump at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images) © Copyright

Ivana Spanovic, the most consistent performer this year with four out of five outdoor wins, could be Reese’s biggest barrier. The Serbian is the European champion and her 6.87m was the best jump in qualifying. USA’s world champion Tianna Bartoletta and Great Britain’s Lorraine Ugen could also challenge; both have taken medals behind Reese at the past 12 months.

Schippers expected to convert

After finishing outside of the medals in the 100m, former heptathlete Dafne Schippers reminded everyone of her sprinting talent in the semi-finals of the 200m.

The world champion won her race in 21.96, looking strong as she held off Olympic 100m champion Elaine Thompson. The Jamaican didn’t push, though, and will be eager to avenge her second place to Schippers at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015.

Elaine Thompson and Dafne Schippers in the 200m semi-final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images / AFP)Elaine Thompson and Dafne Schippers in the 200m semi-final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images / AFP) © Copyright

Tori Bowie will ensure it’s not a two-way race. The US champion showed her class by taking silver in the 100m earlier this week and was second fastest overall in the semis (22.13), though, like Schippers and Thompson, she was running within herself.

There will be no holding back in the final (which starts at 22:30), where all three or none could grab gold.

USA leads hurdle charge

Drama is guaranteed when track action concludes at 22:35 with the women’s 100m hurdles.

The seven fastest 100m hurdlers in the world this year are all from the USA. Keni Harrison, the fastest of all time, didn’t qualify for Rio, but the three athletes who beat her to the US team each has strong medal hopes.

Brianna Rollins, the 2013 world champion, was fastest in the heats with 12.54. She will expect to advance from the semi-finals (which take place at 20:45) to the final at 22:35 with at least one of her teammates. Kristi Castlin was second fastest in the heats with 12.68, while Nia Ali, who won a second world indoor title in March, comfortably won her heat.

Brianna Rollins in the 100m hurdles heats at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images)Brianna Rollins in the 100m hurdles heats at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images) © Copyright

Yet results are never assured in the chaos of the sprint hurdles: at last year’s World Championships there were two US women in the final but neither finished on the podium; world champion Danielle Williams failed to make it to Rio at all.

Of the competing athletes, world silver medallist Cindy Roleder is fastest in the rankings behind the US hurdlers. A nerveless performer, the German snared Euro gold last month.

Just 0.01 seconds slower this year is Alina Talay, who took world bronze last year. She, like British sisters Tiffany Porter and Cindy Offili, will harbour strong medal hopes after easing through the heats.

A question of margins for Eaton

The decathlon will get things started on the track with the 100m at 09:30. Calling the outcome is not so much matter of asking who, but pondering how much.

Since winning Olympic gold in 2012, Ashton Eaton has remained unbeaten in combined events competitions, won four world titles (indoors and out) and improved his own world record. His day-one performance (other events are long jump at 10:35, shot put at 12:15, high jump at 17:45 and 400m at 21:20) will indicate the level of his form, and hint at whether there will be more records for the US superstar come the close of play on Thursday.

Should he falter, the day’s events will give more clues as to who of the rest of the field could step up. Canada’s Damian Warner is enjoying a strong season and took world silver behind Eaton last year.

Elsewhere in the day’s schedule there is qualifying in the men’s hammer (09:40), 5000m (10:05) and javelin (20:30), and in the women’s 800m (10:55).

Thomas Byrne for the IAAF