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Olympic Preview - Sunday, August 5

Olympic Preview - Sunday, August 5
Day 3 of track and field at the Games of the XXX Summer Olympiad will start with a bang and finish with a roar, and American athletes will figure in nearly every event. The women's marathon goes off early in the morning and the afternoon session ends with the single-most anticipated event, the mens' 100 meter final. In between we get finals in the men's steeplechase and hammer throw and women's 400 meters and triple jump, plus thrilling semifinals in the men's 1500.

TV Schedule

NBC    6:00-9:00am    LIVE coverage of the women's marathon
NBC    7:00pm-midnight    Track & Field's centerpiece event -- the men's 100m dash,
plus apparatus finals in Gymnastics, the women's springboard
final in Diving, and a Beach Volleyball matchup.
NBC    12:35-1:35am    Finals in the men's hammer throw and steeplechase, and
qualifying in the high jump, plus the men's singles final in

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

(all events covered live at NBCOlympics.com)

For a deeper look at each event, check out my blog at tracksuperfan.com.

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

Women's Marathon

6:00 AM ET -- live coverage on NBC

Recent headlines about this event have centered around who might not be in this event: world record holder Paula Radcliffe and American Desi Davila. Radcliffe is out with injury, and Davila has had some problems that impacted her ability to get to the start line. Davila is still on the start list and plans to run, but she's highly unlikely to make a difference in the race.

Based on their excellent road racing records, the favorites are Kenyan Mary Keitany and Edna Kiplagat and Russia's Liliya Shobukhova, but Team USA has legitimate medal threats in Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher. Both have excellent track credentials, with Flanagan winning Olympic 10k bronze in 2008 and Goucher winning Worlds 10k bronze in 2007, and both appear to be in top condition.

The others who are expected to challenge come from the expected places: Kenya (Priscah Jeptoo) and Ethiopia (Aselefech Mergia, Tiki Gelana) but there are alwats surprises in Olympic marathons. One who could surprise is Rhode Island-based Kiwi Kim Smith, who led the 2011 Boston Marathon before succombing to injury. Her pre-Olympic preparations have gone well, topped off with a half marathon win and a course record at the B.A.A. 10k.

Women's Triple Jump

2:35 PM ET

This event is expected to be a battle between Ukrainian Olha Saladuha and Kazakhstan's Olga Rypakova, but Columbian Caterine Ibargüen has beaten both in recent Diamond League outings. Russian legend Tatyana Lebedeva is in the final but her best days are probably behind her. No Americans qualified to the final, but there is a familiar face in Jamaican Kim Williams, who starred at Florida State.

Men's 1500 Meters semifinals

3:15 PM ET

All three American runners--Leo Manzano, Matthew Centrowitz, and Andrew Wheating--barely scraped into the semifinals. But this is a new day, and as long as you're on the track you have a chance. The first five in each of two heats plus the next two fastest will advance to Tuesday's final. Centro and Wheating have battled injury and aren't as prepared as they'd like to be. All three runners, however, have the kind of late-race closing speed that is essential in this kind of racing.

Heat one has Manzano and Wheating, and they face off against gold medal co-favorite Asbel Kiprop of Kenya. In terms of times, the next most imposing figures are Algerian Taoufik Makhloufi and Ethiopian Mekonnen Gebremedhin, who have run 3:30 and 3:31 respectively this year. Also look out for Qatari Hamza Driouch and Aussie Ryan Gregson.

Centrowitz in on his own in the second heat to face the other gold medal co-favorite Silas Kiplagat of Kenya, along with his compatriate Nixon Kiplimo Chepseba, who was advanced on appeal after falling in his heat. Ann Arbor-based Kiwi Nick Willis, the silver medalist four years ago, is in this heat as well and is running as well as he ever has. Other tough runners include Moroccan Abdalaati Iguider and Canadian Nate Brannen. Brannen made it to the final four years ago after admittedly psyching himself out and barely getting any sleep at all; this time around he's better prepared mentally and is a more potent competitor than most observers realize.

Men's Hammer Throw

3:20 PM ET

This event got a shake-up when Belarus' Ivan Tikhon was hit with a doping ban just before the competition began, and if anyone was surprised by this it was in that he was able to be caught. Poland's Pawel Fadjik was unable to qualify to the final, which shook things up even more. The heavy favorite remains Hungarian Krisztián Pars, even more so now that his two chief rivals have been eliminated. Russian Kirill Ikonnikov is the only other athlete who has thrown over 80 meters this season, although nine of the twelve finalists have done it at some time in their careers. Others to watch for are veterans Koji Murofushi of Japan and Primož Kozmus of Slovenia.

If American Kibwe Johnson is able to win a medal, it would be a true shocker, but it's not quite as bizarre a possibility as it seems. Last year was a breakthrough season for him but this year he'd been throwing terribly until the Olympic Trials. Since then, though, things have started coming around, and he was one of only three throwers to hit a seasonal best in the qualifying round.

Women's 400 meters

4:10 PM ET

Team USA's Sanya Richards-Ross has been the dominant quarter-miler for the better part of a decade, but she lacks one accomplishment: an individual Olympic gold medal. 2012 has been her best year since her World Championship year of 2009, and she's displayed poise, speed and power in her heat and semifinal.

Her biggest threat comes from Russian Antonina Krivoshapka, who went out very hard in her heat and semi, but folded a bit down the stretch in the semifinal and was very nearly caught by US veteran DeeDee Trotter and Jamaican Novlene Williams-Mills. The other semifinal winner was defending world champion Amantle Montsho, who appeared to be running only as fast as she had to. The third American finalist is Francena McCorory, who was only 0.04 seconds behind Montsho in their semi. The home crowd will be cheering hard for defending Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu, but it looks like a long shot for her to medal.

Men's Steeplechase

4:25 PM ET

For U.S. distance running fans, this year has been surreal. Evan Jager ran his first-ever steeplechase at the Mt. SAC Relays in April, earned an Olympic 'A' standard in his second attempt in May (despite face-planting in the final water jump), dominated June's Olympic Trials in his third and fourth steeplechases, and then shattered the American Record in July while beating many of the world's top runners. Now it's August, and he actually dictated the terms of his Olympic qualifying heat over the closing laps. What now?

Maybe some realism is in order. In terms of season's best times, Jager is ranked fourth among the finalists. But in terms of PRs, he's just seventh, and by far the least-experienced of all the athletes. Still, the USA hasn't had a steepler inside the top ten since 1996, which was the last time the USA had two finalists, as we do this year.

That other finalist is Donn Cabral, whose accomplishments are less flashy but still historic. He finished up his year at Princeton, and who was the last U.S. runner to make an Olympic final right after a collegiate season? Henry Marsh, way back in 1976. Cabral is what I call "sneaky good", not prone to extremely fast times but resilient, a smart racer, and a fast finisher.

As for the favorites, same as it ever was: Kenyans. Abel Kiprop, Brimin Kipruto and Ezekiel Kemboi are could very easily sweep the medals. Possible interlopers include Roba Gari, the first really good Ethiopian steepler, and France's Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad (mascots beware).

Men's 100 meters

4:50 PM ET

This is the most highly anticipated race of the entire Olympic program, and expected to be a battle between Jamaican teammates and training partners Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake. The semifinals are earlier in the evening will reveal much about what will happen in the final. Specifically, semifinal winners are usually the medalists, and the gold medalist virtually always wins his semi.

The best run in yesterday's semifinals was by Team USA's Ryan Bailey, a 9.88 (with 1.5 m/s aiding wind). After two years in at a junior college, Bailey skipped NCAA competition in favor of turning pro. Since then he's shown occaissional flashes of brilliance but appears to be putting all the pieces together now. Tyson Gay ran very well, recording 10.08 in adverse wind conditions, and Asafa Powell and Justin Gatlin won their heats too.

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