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Olympic Preview - Saturday, August 4

Olympic Preview - Saturday, August 4
Day 2 of track and field at the Games of the XXX Summer Olympiad promises to be a great one, especially if you're pulling for the home team. The heptathlon comes to its conclusion, featuring Britain's Jess Ennis, and the long-awaited men's 10,000 meters is on tap, with clubmates Mo Farah and Galen Rupp expected to contend for gold. There are also finals in the women's 100 meters and discus and the men's long jump and 20k walk, and the women's steeplechase gets started.

TV Schedule

NBC    11:15-11:45am    Qualifying-round action in Track & Field includes the men's 100m and 400m and women's pole vault.
NBC    1:30-2:00pm    More qualifying-round action in Track & Field.
NBC    4:15-5:00pm    LIVE coverage of the men's 10,000 meters final
(Eastern time zone only)
MSNBC    4:45-6:00pm    Men's 20k Walk coverage
NBC    8:00pm-midnight    Swimming concludes with four finals, including the men's and women's medley relays. Plus the women's 100m dash, the women's springboard semifinal in Diving and Beach Volleyball.
NBC    12:30-1:30am    Finals in the women's discus, plus events in track Cycling.

Day 2 results
Day 2 Event by Event Updates
Olympic Track & Field Schedule

(all events covered live at NBCOlympics.com)

Let's take a look at the main events one at a time, in chronological order.

Heptathlon long jump

5:05 AM ET

There are two battles in the heptathlon. One is for gold, between Britain's Jess Ennis and Russia's Tatyana Chernova, and the other is for bronze, between six different athletes, including Team USA's Hyleas Fountain and Canada's Jessica Zelinka.

Ennis leads Chernova by 309 points, but she's going to give a lot of that back today. How much? Based on past performance, she'll give back anywhere from 200 to 250, so she appears safe. But disaster can always strike. If Chernova beats Ennis by 30cm in this event, then the Brit is fine. 40cm is beginning to stretch it; more than that starts going into disaster territory.

Women's Steeplechase Heats

6:35 AM ET

Forty-four entrants are in three heats, which will be trimmed down to fifteen finalists. The first four in each heat qualify plus three more by time go to the finals on Monday. With two-thirds of the field getting eliminated, runners have little room for error.

Heat one features collegians Shalaya Kipp (USA/Colorado) and Genevieve LaCaze (Australia/Florida). They have their hands full, as the heat includes 2012 world leader Milcah Chemos Cheywa (Kenya) and defending Olympic champion and world record holder Gulnara Galkina (Russia), plus five others whose PRs are under 9:30. One of those five, Britain's Barbara Parker, is sure to get lots of support from the crowd.

Heat two has Team USA's big hope in this event, Colorado's Emma Coburn. She was twelfth at last year's World Championships and has taken nearly twelve seconds off her PR since then, so it's reasonable to think that she can make it to the final. Only three other runners in this heat have a better time this year than Coburn's 9:25.28: Ethiopian Sofia Assefa, Turkey's Gülcan Mingir, and Spain's Marta Dominguez. Another to watch for is Tunisian Habiba Ghribi, last year's World Championships silver medalist.

Heat three has the Oregon Track Club's Bridget Franek, one of five runners in the heat with seasonal bests under 9:30. The fastest of the other four are Russian Yuliya Zaripova and Ethiopian Hiwott Ayalew, who have both gone under 9:10. The others to watch for are Kenyan Mercy Wanjiku Njoroge and Romanian Ancuta Bobocel. Scot Elish McColgan faces long odds to get to the final, especially after being hit by a van on a recent training run, but she'll get lots of love from the home crowd.

Heptathlon Javelin Throw

7:55 AM ET
The heptathlon javelin actually gets underway at 6:40 AM, but the athletes in the hunt for medals are mostly in the second group, throwing at 7:55.

Russian Tatyana Chernova is by far the best javelin thrower among the medal contenders, and will eat into Jess Ennis' lead. A good throw for Chernova is 53.00m and her PR is 54.49; a good throw for Ennis is 46.50 and her PR is 47.11. If Ennis still has a lead of 30 or more points after this event, she'll have more or less sealed the gold medal.

Men's 20 kilometer Race Walk

12:00 PM ET, will get special coverage on MSNBC at 4:15 PM

When racewalks get any coverage at all it's usually filled with jokes, but Team USA has an up-and-comer who intends to be competitive on a worldwide level. He's Trevor Barron, not even 20 years old yet, and still this isn't his first rodeo. He was 23rd at the World Championships last year, 7th at the World Juniors two years ago, and 4th at the World Youth in 2009. Even finishing inside the top 20 would be a major accomplishment for Barron; ignoring the boycotted 1984 Olympics, you have to go back 40 years to find an American in better than 20th place in an Olympic 20k walk.

As far as the battle for the medals is concerned, Russia's Valery Borchin is expected to successfully defend his Olympic title.

Women's Discus Throw

2:30 PM ET

The consensus pick for gold in this event is Croatian Sandra Perkovic, but this is an event that sometimes has surprises. It certainly was so four years ago when Team USA's Stephanie Brown Trafton won gold. Brown Trafton was fifth-best in the qualifying round and will have to throw very well in order to medal. Russian Darya Pishchalnikova, the current world leader, and China's defending world champion Li Yanfeng are other contenders, as are Germany's Nadine Müller and Cuban Yarelys Barrios.

Men's Long Jump

2:55 PM ET

This is considered a wide-open competition, with gold up for grabs among half a dozen athletes or more. The home crowd will be pulling hard for Britons Greg Rutherford and Chris Tomlinson. Australia's Mitchell "Mega" Watt has been the most consistent jumper this year. In yesterday's qualifying round, only two jumpers to hit the automatic mark of 8.10m: surprise World Indoor champion Mauro Vinicius da Silva of Brazil and US Olympic Trials champion Marquise Goodwin. A young Russian named Alexander Menkov should not be ignored, and one should never say there's anything triple jump star Will Claye can't do. In fact, the seasonal bests of the top eleven jumpers in the final are only separated by 14 centimeters -- that's just five and a half inches!

Heptathlon 800 meters

3:35 PM ET

If all goes according to plan for Jess Ennis, this race will be 80,000 Britons going bonkers, part one. As one wag noted yesterday, "they would have cheered if she were boiling an egg". If she's in contention for gold, the energy of the crowd will be off the charts.

Here's the key: Ennis' best 800 is 2:07.51, run at the Daegu World Championships last year. Chernova's best is 2:06.50, run at the Beijing Olympics four years ago. Neither will be capable of picking up many points on the other; at this level, one second is a mere fifteen points. If one of these two has a big lead entering the 800, then the gold is already decided. But if it's close, it will be among the most thrilling finishes ever to a multi-event competition.

There is an extremely tight battle brewing for the bronze medal, with as many as eight athletes in contention after the first day: Team USA's Hyleas Fountain, Ukraine's Natalya Dobrinska and Lyudmyla Yosipenko, Germans Jennifer Oeser and Lili Schwartzkopf, Lithuanian Austra Skujyte, Russian Kristina Savitskaya, and France's Antoinette Nana Djimou.     

Men's 10,000 meters

4:15 PM ET, will get live coverage on NBC in the Eastern time zone

This will be 80,000 Britons going bonkers, part two, as London native Mo Farah is one of the favorites to win gold. If Farah and Ennis both come through, expect singing in the streets (and yes, I mean that literally).

For the first time in pretty much forever, an American is expected to be in the mix for gold as well: Farah's training mate, Galen Rupp. Looming large as an interloper is Ethiopian legend Kenenisa Bekele, finally back on the track after a long series of injury problems. Others expected to be in the mix are Kenenisa's brother, Tariku Bekele, and Kenyan champion Wilson Kiprop.

While not expected to contend for medals, three other U.S.-based runners might be the equal of all the other Kenyans, Ethiopians, Eritreans and Ugandans. The Oregon Distance Project's Dathan Ritzenhein has finally put together a long stretch of injury-free running and is reportedly doing very well in training. The Oregon Track Club's Matt Tegenkamp has finished in the top ten in three out of his four trips to the Worlds and Olympics. Canada's Cam Levins, recently at Southern Utah University, is untested in meets like this but was truly impressive during the outdoor collegiate season.

Women's 100 meters

4:55 PM ET
As of right now we don't even know who the finalists will be, as the semis will be run some two hours and twenty minutes earlier, but it would be surprising if it were not a battle between Jamaica and Team USA. The combatants for the medals are expected to be Jamaica's Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Kerron Stewart, and America's Carmelita Jeter, Tianna Madison and Allyson Felix. Interlopers could come in the form of Nigerian Blessing Okagbare (a Bowerman Award finalist while at UTEP) and Trinidad's Kelly-Ann Baptiste (a two-time NCAA champion at LSU).

What we do know is that semifinals tell you a lot about what will happen in the final. In the 100, the gold medalist almost always wins her semi.

For an extensive event-by-event preview, check out my blog at tracksuperfan.com.


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