Usain Bolt in the 100m at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Expected highlights on day three – Rio 2016 Olympic Games

Sunday (14) is day three of athletics at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and will see four champions crowned. Here’s what to look out for.

Women’s marathon

Action begins on Rio’s roads. Calling the winner of the women’s marathon (09:30 local time) is an impossible task. Who the race will suit will depend largely on the pace, and that could hinge on the weather.

In a frantic finish at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015, Ethiopia’s Mare Dibaba won in 2:27:35 ahead of Kenya’s Helah Kiprop and Bahrain’s Eunice Kirwa. Less than five seconds split the three, who all run in Rio.

Mare Dibaba in the marathon at the Olympic Games (Getty Images)Mare Dibaba in the marathon at the Olympic Games (Getty Images) © Copyright

Dibaba was sixth in London, her only marathon outing of the year. Kiprop has shown stronger form in 2016: she won in Tokyo in a lifetime best 2:21.27. Her Kenyan teammates have also scored notable wins this year – Jemima Sumgong in London and Visiline Jepkesho in Paris.

Fastest in the world this year is Tigist Tsegaye, who ran 2:19.41 to win in Dubai. The third Ethiopian in the race is Tigist Tufa, the 2015 London Marathon winner who finished second there in April. Outside of those seven, only Japan’s Kayoko Fukushi has run sub 2:23 this year and could factor.

The US trio includes Shalane Flanagan, who will compete in her fourth Olympics. The 35-year-old finished ninth in the marathon in 2012. A 10km PB of 30:52 this year suggests she could be in shape to challenge for a medal.

Ibarguen wants only gold

The most consistent performer in the women’s triple jump is Caterine Ibarguen. In fact, the world champion, who enjoyed a recent 34-competition win streak, might be the most consistent performer in athletics.

Yet the 32-year-old had to settle for silver in 2012. Anything less than gold in the Rio final (starting 20:55) will disappoint – she has lost just one competition in the four years since London. The woman who beat her, at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Birmingham in June, was Olga Rypakova, who happened to win the Olympic title in the British capital four years ago.

Caterine Ibarguen in the triple jump at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images)Caterine Ibarguen in the triple jump at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images) © Copyright

Colombian Ibarguen had the best mark (14.52m) in qualifying and goes after her country’s first ever athletics gold; Rypakova was third best (14.39m).

World indoor champion Yulimar Rojas could be a factor. The tall Venezuelan’s technique was shaky in qualifying (her marks diminished after her 14.21m opener), but with a world title and a 15.02m PB notched this season, the 20-year-old cannot be ruled out.

Three way in the four hundred

Wayde Van Niekerk, Lashawn Merritt and Kirani James produced one of the races of the year in the 400m final at the 2015 World Championships. The trio all finished within 44 seconds as they placed 1-2-3 in the fastest one-lap race of all time.

Sunday’s Olympic final (at 22:00) should be just as electric. Merritt, the 2008 champion, is fastest this year with 43.97. James, the 2012 champion, is second fastest with 44.02. Van Niekerk, the world champion, is third fastest with 44.11.

Kirani James and LaShawn Merritt in the 400m at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images)Kirani James and LaShawn Merritt in the 400m at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images) © Copyright

They are three athletes with incredible pace and championship pedigree. If medals go to any other athletes it will be a shock, although Van Niekerk’s time in the semifinals was slower than Machel Cedenio and Bralon Taplin.

It is a race that contains the ingredients for another special final. For the head chef: Olympic gold.

In search of a triple

Three athletes have attempted to win a third straight individual athletics crown at these Games so far; each has come up short.

Usain Bolt will be the next to attempt the hat trick in the men’s 100m, with the semis taking place at 21:00. Discounting a DQ at the 2011 World Championships, the world record-holder has never finished outside the top one in a major championships sprint race since 2008.

Usain Bolt 2016 ()Usain Bolt 2016 () © Copyright

Bolt is favourite for gold – and indeed to go on to retain his 200m and 4x100m titles – but will have to work harder than in round one, where he strolled to his heat win in 10.07.

USA’s Justin Gatlin will be a threat. He was fastest in round one with 10.01 and will be keen to avenge the defeats he suffered to Bolt at the 2015 World Championships. Yohan Blake, Bolt’s training partner and 2012 silver medallist, will likely be in the mix. So will Trayvon Bromell and Andre De Grasse, the 21-year-old pair who shared world bronze in this event last year.

The starter’s gun in the final fires at 22:25.

Fields to be whittled

Outside of the medal events, the women’s 400m semifinals will take place (20:35). World champion Allyson Felix and silver medallist Shaunae Miller both looked majestic in round one. The women’s 1500m semis also take place (21:30) and feature world record-holder Genzebe Dibaba.

There will also be a first glimpse of the men’s high jumpers (from 20:30). The field oozes charisma as well as class, and features Mutaz Barshim, the second-best jumper of all time who is ranked No.1 in the world this year with 2.40m.

Thomas Byrne for the IAAF