History beckons! - Bolt, Fraser-Pryce hunt never-achieved Olympic treble
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil:
Brace yourselves. Hang on to something if you must. Speed is about to be unleashed in Rio de Janeiro with one Jamaican star set to take his first stride in his last dash to glory, while another is just two races away from possibly doing something that has never been done before.
As Usain Bolt gets ready to make a sprint for a third straight 100m title, with the running of the heats at midday (10 a.m. Jamaica time), Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who is hoping to become the first woman to win three consecutive Olympic gold medals in athletics, put in a business-like performance on the track in the women's 100m heats, moving into today's semi-finals as the fastest qualifier.
Fraser-Pryce, who sported a gold tribal-styled pattern on her arms, didn't have the best of starts, but covered the field and came across the line encouragingly, given her recent injury issues.
It was all business as she made her way past journalists without saying a word.
Her biggest rivals - Elaine Thompson, 11.21, and Dafne Schippers, 11.16 - are also through to the semi-final round, and although they had worse starts, both are obviously capable of much faster times.
Americans English Gardner, 11.09, and Torie Bowie, 11.13, are also through, ensuring that today's semi-final (7 p.m.) will be packed with all the weapons in what is sure to be a fiery battle for the gold medal.
Young Jamaican Christania Williams finished second in her heat with a time of 11.27 and said she was excited to be at the Olympics, her only objective being to make it through to the next round.
"I am excited to be here. I'm not nervous at all. I always wanted to be here and I am ready to deliver," Williams said.
Yohan Blake, who says he is back to his best, will join Bolt in tomorrow's 100m heats, as will Nickel Ashmeade, with keen attention also reserved for Americans Justin Gatlin and Trayvon Brommel in particular.
Also today, Jamaica's female quarter-milers will step on the track in the 400m heats, which get under way at 11 a.m. (9 a.m. Jamaica time), with Stephenie-Ann McPherson running in lane three in the first heat, World Championships bronze medallist Shericka Jackson starting in heat seven (lane eight), and Christine Day running in heat eight (lane two).
Shanieka Thomas, whose 14.57 metres makes her number six on the planet, and Kimberly Williams, who is one place lower with 14.56m, will both feature in the women's triple jump.
Rusheen McDonald and Javon Francis are both through to the men's 400m semi-finals after finishing second and third in their respective heats.
McDonald clocked a season's best 45.22 to finish behind Grenada's Kirani James, who was relaxed for his 44.93 win, with Great Britain's Matthew Hudson-Smith, 45.26, finishing third.
Francis was strong in the final 50m of his heat, running from sixth position in the straight to finish third in 45.8 behind World champion Wayde van Niekerk (South Africa), 45.26, and the Dominican Republic's Luguelin Santos, 45.61.
Aubrey Smith, who admitted to being star struck, probably had a glare in his eyes as he fouled on all three of his attempts in the men's long jump qualifying.
FORBES FIRST OLYMPIC FINAL
Damar Forbes is, however, through to his first Olympic final after his series-starting 7.85m mark was just about good enough to see him into the medal round.
That in itself is a big deal, with Forbes becoming only the second Jamaican male to make the Olympics long jump final and the first since James Beckford did so in 1996.
"It means a lot to qualify to the final, but I don't think I did my best today (yesterday). I had a lot of rushed mistakes and maybe the adrenaline and excitement got the better of me and made me rush everything," said Forbes.
"I have to keep calm tomorrow (today). I made the final by the skin of my teeth, and I can only be thankful for that," he added.
She is the first Jamaican to compete in the hammer throw event, but it wasn't the best of days for Daina Levy, who finished at the bottom of her qualifying group with a 60.35m mark, having fouled on her first and last attempts.
Fedrick Dacres was the first Jamaican in action on a wet and chilly morning session, but it was a cut on the index finger of his right hand that caused him most discomfort. Coming in with the sixth best mark in the discus this season (68.02m), Dacres was not close to repeating that sort of form, with his only legal effort landing at the 50.69m mark.
Like Dacres, Danniel Thomas was looking to become the first Jamaican qualifier to an Olympic final for her event, but she was left disappointed.