Usain Bolt celebrates winning gold in the 100m at the London 2012 Olympics (© Getty Images)
Usain Bolt will seek to sign off his Olympic career in typically history-making fashion as the Jamaican track and field icon pursues an unprecedented hat-trick of 100m titles.
The 29-year-old has long spoken of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games being his finale at “The Greatest Show on Earth” which intensifies the sense of expectation surrounding the sport’s marquee star.
Bolt has had a difficult campaign – most notably after a grade one hamstring tear in the heart of the season disrupted his preparations. While the big Jamaican has not taken the event by storm so far this year – his season’s best of 9.88 places him fourth on the world lists – he still boasts a four from four record this season and with an unimpeachable championship record it would be a brave man who would back against him securing the golden 100m treble.
Predictably, his main rival is Justin Gatlin of the US, who himself is seeking to create history by becoming the first man in history to regain an Olympic title having triumphed at the Athens Games 12 years earlier.
Like Bolt, Gatlin has had to overcome adversity by way of an ankle injury in the countdown to his 2016 campaign and like the Jamaican he too boasts a 100 per cent record this year with seven wins in as many races.
Gatlin missed out by a whisker on toppling Bolt at last year’s World Championships and the 34-year-old veteran will not to fazed by the task ahead.
Bromell leads the new generation
Some 13 years Gatlin’s junior Trayvon Bromell, a 2015 world bronze medallist, could also be in the mix. Crowned world indoor 60m champion in March he has struggled with an Achilles injury during the outdoor season but a 9.84 clocking - to equal his PB – for second at US Championships suggests he is in strong form.
The US contingent is rounded out by Marvin Bracy, the 2014 world indoor 60m silver medallist, who holds a season’s best of 9.94.
Intriguingly, Bolt is joined on the Jamaican team by the 2012 London Olympic silver medallist Yohan Blake, who is gradually returning to form after several injury-ravaged seasons. The 26-year-old with a best of 9.69 has dipped under ten seconds four times this season and his victory in 9.95 at the Jamaican Championship hinted at better times ahead. Blake’s compatriot Nickel Ashmeade (9.94), the 2013 World 100m fifth-placer, is also entered.
The Canadian challenge looks strong led by 2015 World bronze medallist Andre De Grasse, who boasts a season’s best 9.99 and is supported by Aaron Brown, who earlier this season blitzed to a 9.96 clocking.
The principal European threat would appear to be the mercurial Frenchman Jimmy Vicaut. The winner at the London stop of the IAAF Diamond League has twice posted sub-9.90 times this season, although he disappointed at the European Championships when he had to settle for bronze when tipped for gold.
The two men ahead of him that day – two-time Olympic finalist Churandy Martina of the Netherlands and Jamaican-born Turk Jak Ali Harvey could also prove dangerous opposition.
Former world 100m champion Kim Collins, who earlier this year became the first 40-year-old to run a sub-ten second 100m, will make his fifth Olympic appearance some 20 years after the veteran from St Kitts and Nevis made his debut at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Among the other names entered include South Africa’s World University Games champion Akani Simbine, African champion Ben Youssef Meite of Ivory Coast, 2015 World Championships finalist Su Bingtian of China and 2008 Olympic silver medallist Richard Thompson of Trinidad & Tobago.
Steve Landells for the IAAF