Usain Bolt chasing unprecedented 100m three-peat
Everything you need to know about the Games' marquee event
Here's a quick guide to what, when and who to watch in the men's 100-metre sprint at the Rio Olympics.
Already the greatest sprinter in history, Usain Bolt wants to put even more daylight between himself and every other man who has ever stepped into the blocks.
Since making his big splash at the 2008 Beijing Olympics with jaw-dropping, world record-breaking performances in the 100, 200 and 4x100 races, Bolt has not been defeated on the track in an Olympic or world championship race.
He pulled off the Olympic triple for an unprecedented second time in London in 2012, and did it at the world championships in 2009, 2013 and 2015. (Bolt was DQ'd for a false start in the 100 at the 2011 worlds but won gold in the other two events). His world records of 9.58 in the 100 and 19.19 in the 200, both set at the 2009 worlds in Berlin, still stand.
The long-striding, 6-foot-5 Jamaican, who will turn 30 on the day the flame goes out in Rio, says this is his last Olympics. He plans to retire after next year's worlds in London, where he'll play an encore by competing only in the 100.
But this is no Kobe-like farewell tour for a fading star. Bolt is favoured to win gold in all three events in Rio — a feat that would launch him into another stratosphere altogether. He's already the only sprinter ever to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals in both the 100 and 200. One more victory in the 100, and he'll break away from 1984 and '88 champ Carl Lewis to become the only man to win the Olympics' marquee event three times in a row (though fellow Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce may beat him to the punch with the women's event going the night before the men's).
Bolt will not complete the triple-triple without a fight. This season he's battled a hamstring injury that forced him to bail on the 100 final at the Jamaican trials at the start of July. He returned to easily win the 200 at a Diamond League meet in London on July 22, but said after the race that he could "feel the rust."
Then there are the men nipping at Bolt's spikes. American Justin Gatlin, 34, owns the two fastest 100m times in the world this year, including a 9.80. But remember what happened last year, when Gatlin posted the five quickest times and became a trendy pick to win the world title, only to be nipped in the final in Beijing by Bolt. On the very track where he made his stunning Olympic debut seven years earlier, the Jamaican showed that he saves his best stuff for the biggest stages.
The same might be said for Andre De Grasse, who finished a surprising third in that race with a personal-best 9.92 from the outside lane. The clutch performance capped a dream season that saw the Canadian sprout from an unknown college athlete to a double world championship medallist (he also won bronze in the 4x100), a double Pan Am Games champion (in the 100 and 200) and a multi-millionaire, courtesy of a big endorsement deal with Puma.
Now 21, De Grasse has broken the 10-second mark only once this year — a 9.99 to win the final at the Canadian trials in early July. Aaron Brown, who finished second in that race and will also compete in Rio, actually owns the best Canadian time of the year — 9.96.
Another 21-year-old to watch is American Trayvon Bromell, whose 9.84 is the best non-Gatlin time of the year.
When to watch
The 100 takes place over two days — Aug. 13 and 14. The opening day includes the preliminary round for runners who haven't met the Olympic qualifying standard (8:30 a.m. ET) followed by the first round proper (11 a.m. ET). The following night features the semifinals (8 p.m. ET), where the top two finishers in each of the three heats, plus the next two fastest runners, will advance to the eight-man final (9:25 p.m. ET).