Caribbeans look to dominate short distances

LONDON Tue Aug 7, 2012 3:49am IST

Jamaica's Usain Bolt celebrates after winning the men's 100m final during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium August 5, 2012. REUTERS/David Gray

Jamaica's Usain Bolt celebrates after winning the men's 100m final during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium August 5, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/David Gray

LONDON (Reuters) - Caribbean runners bid to expand their dominance of the shorter track distances at the London Olympics on Monday, after Jamaica's Usain Bolt ran the second quickest 100 metres ever to swat aside any doubt that he is still the fastest man on Earth.

The athletics programme at the Games continues apace although Algerian Taoufik Makhloufi, a medal prospect in the 1,500m, was somewhat slower and has provisionally been thrown out for not trying hard enough in an 800m heat.

American judoka Nick Delpopolo is also out of the Olympics after testing positive for marijuana, which he blamed on unwittingly eating a "hash brownie", while another judo player was praised for slapping a fan who threw a bottle on the track as Bolt prepared for glory.

Bolt's gold on Sunday put him on course for a unique double-double in 100m and 200m races at successive Games and kept Jamaica in the hunt for a second sweep of individual sprint medals after Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce retained her women's 100m crown.

Fraser-Pryce lines up in the first round of the 200m on Monday alongside her team mate and defending champion Veronica Campbell-Brown as well as American challengers Allyson Felix and 100m silver medallist Carmelita Jeter.

Meanwhile, 19-year-old world champion Kirani James from the Caribbean island of Grenada looks in commanding form for the 400m final, with almost all the fastest qualifiers coming from the region apart from Belgian identical twins Jonathan and Kevin Borlee.

Champion LaShawn Merritt of the United States is injured.

Javier Culson is aiming to become the first Puerto Rican to win an Olympic medal in the men's 400m hurdles final having come into the Games with the world's fastest time.

But the race looks tight, with 2004 champion Felix Sanchez, a national hero in the neighbouring Dominican Republic, surprisingly beating Culson's time in qualifying.

America's Angelo Taylor, at 33 a year younger than Sanchez, is bidding to become the first man to win three Olympic 400m hurdles titles after gold in 2000 and 2008.

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NOT TRYING

Monday's early qualifying session in the athletics stadium dashed the medal prospects of Makhloufi in bizarre circumstances.

Makhloufi beat champion Asbel Kiprop in Sunday's semi-final of the 1,500m and did not plan to run in the 800m heats, but the International Association of Athletics Federations said his team had failed to withdraw him in time and he had to compete.

When he stepped off the track after jogging round for half a lap, the athletics referee disqualified him from all further events for not making a bona fide effort.

It was a different story for Australia's gold medal favourite Sally Pearson, who went all out in the women's 100m hurdles to record the fastest first-round time at an Olympics.

"I was nervous about the first race," the world indoors and outdoors champion said. "It is the Olympic Games. If I don't feel nervous, I'm not ready, so I am glad I had nerves today."

Kenyan David Rudisha ruled out an attempt on his 800m world record in London after comfortably winning his heat.

Rudisha, the world champion, is the overwhelming favourite for gold after missing Beijing four years ago through injury.

"The track is fast. It looks good," the 23-year-old told reporters through a translator.

"It is a medal that I want. Once I get the medal, toward the end of the season I can think about the record."

Bolt also has his eye on more medals, saying after Sunday's victory: "I'm never going to say that I'm the greatest until I've run my 200 metres."

Some had doubted that Bolt had it in him to win a repeat gold in the 100m after suffering back problems, getting himself disqualified for a false start in last year's world championship and losing to Yohan Blake in the Jamaican trials.

Even after a safety-first start, he blitzed his way down the track to win in 9.63 seconds, an Olympic record and the second fastest time on record behind his own world best of 9.58.

But Bolt appeared in no great rush to turn his attention to Tuesday's 200m qualifying round, as newspaper pictures showed of him celebrating his 100m gold with friends at 3 a.m.

The ticket holder who threw the bottle in Bolt's direction before the 100m start was slapped by Dutch judo bronze medallist and fellow spectator Edith Bosch and was removed from the stadium and arrested by police.

WIND AND RAIN

Hundreds of Bolt fans back in Jamaica had braved the wind and heavy rain of a gathering tropical storm to watch outdoor screenings of the 100m final, some stopping their cars in traffic to do so.

"I can't drive off now, man," one motorist told a policeman trying to get traffic to move. "Give me a ticket if you want, but I am going to watch that race on that big screen.

Away from the athletics stadium, cyclist Jason Kenny tries to extend Britain's dominance in the velodrome, where they have won four of six events so far, and will start the last two individual sprint rounds as favourite ahead of France's Gregory Bauge.

A home crowd also rooted for Beth Tweddle, the doyenne of Britain's gymnastics team at 27, as she picked up a bronze in the final of the asymmetric bars, her signature apparatus. Russia's Aliya Mustafina won a surprise gold.

Australia's Tom Slingsby won the men's Laser sailing and China's Xu Lijia took Monday's first gold medal, in the women's Laser, to extend her country's tally to 31. The United States are second in the medal table on 28 golds, ahead of the hosts, Britain, who have 16.

But there was also a setback for China when Arthur Nabarrete Zanetti flexed his bulging biceps to upset 2008 champion Chen Yibing and become the first Brazilian to win Olympic gymnastics gold with victory in the rings.

Elsewhere, Italian Niccolo Campriani thrashed the field to win the men's 50 metre three-position rifle event.

(Editing by Matt Falloon/Mark Meadows)

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