Of all the Olympic disciplines, the men's 100 metres may be the quadrennial celebration's marquee event. With the title of "World's fastest human" on the line, no event is more closely watched.
Adding a dash of intrigue to the highly anticipated August 22 final, is the new sprint rivalry forged this summer between defending champion Maurice Greene and the young challenger, Asafa Powell.
The 21-year-old Jamaican has been a devastating force this season, running 10.00 or faster five times since his debut in early June, including a national record 9.91 twice, while remaining undefeated in the process.
Greene has five sub-10s to his credit, topped by his narrow win at the notoriously difficult US Trials. But while Powell has beaten Greene in their last two meetings - by a wide margin in London and by a hair in Zurich - the Jamaican's inexperience on the big stage, which will include three highly competitive rounds prior to the final, may give the edge to Greene.
With upsets common, neither is anxious to play the role of favourite. With a slew of challengers not too far behind, that may be a wise decision.
Survivors from the U.S. Trials, including double dash world leader Shawn Crawford (9.88) and his training partner, trials runner-up Justin Gatlin (9.92 – PB), ran fast in each of the rounds in Sacramento, passing perhaps the finest “rounds” test in the world. Crawford, who also won the 200, has raced only once since - a windy 10.14 in Munich on 07-Aug - choosing to rest instead. Gatlin, still nursing an injured toe, improved to a 10.06 for third in Zurich after a sluggish outing in London the previous week.
Others to look for include Kim Collins, who, still looking for the form that led to his World title last year, insists he’ll be ready in Athens. Ghanaian Aziz Zakari (SB - 10.00) who claimed wins in Rome and Stockholm, and Francis Obikwelu (SB 10.02) of Portugal, the surprise victor in Paris, defeating the favoured Greene in the process, are real threats as well.
Despite bringing a season's best of just 10.21 to Athens, Briton Darren Campbell knows how to rise to the occasion. A silver medallist in the 200 in 2000, Campbell surprised many with his 100m runner-up finish in the Paris last year.