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Olympic Preview - Thursday, August 9

Olympic Preview - Thursday, August 9
Day 6 of track and field at the Games of the XXX Summer Olympiad will finish off the decathlon and Ashton Eaton's bid for the Olympic gold medal and its "world's greatest athlete" title. Three of the biggest stars take to the track, with David Rudisha going after 800 gold and Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake facing off for the 200 meter title.

In the field, Christian Taylor and Will Claye do battle in the triple jump and old rivalries are renewed in the women's javelin throw. The women's 800 meters semis will determine Saturday's finalists, and the heart-in-your-throat 4x100 relay gets started with women's heats.

Scheduled TV coverage

All times Eastern; check your local listings at NBCOlympics.com

NBC   Noon-12:45pm   More qualifying runs in Track & Field, including the men’s 4x400 relay â€ÂÂ" a race Team USA has dominated. Oscar Pistorius is expected to run on his two carbon-fiber prostheses for the South African team.
NBC   8:00pm-Midnight   Track and Field finals include the men's 200m, plus semifinals and finals in women's platform Diving, the men's final in Beach Volleyball, and quarterfinal action in men's BMX Cycling.
NBC   12:35-1:35am   Qualification in Rhythmic Gymnastics, plus the final in the women's javelin throw.

Day 7 results
Day 7 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.

Decathlon 110m Hurdles

4:00 AM ET

How good of a hurdler is Ashton Eaton? He could be selected for Olympic duty in the open 110s were he a citizen of any nation besides the USA. He underperformed in the hurdles in his decathlon world record at the Olympic Trials. He's good. Look for something in the 13.5-13.6 range.

While Trey Hardee is widely expected to take silver, he does not have a lot of room for error. Cuba's Leonel Suarez is projected for bronze and could catch silver if Hardee is not up to what he can do. Hardee should be looking for something around 13.70, and Saurez something around 14.30.

Decathlon Discus Throw

4:55 AM ET

This is one of Eaton's weaknesses, but he's been steadily improving. Hardee is a very good thrower. Look for close to 44 meters from Eaton and about 50 meters from Hardee. Suarez, who is looking for bronze, would improve his position for silver if he can get it out past 46 meters.

Deacthlon Pole Vault

7:55 AM ET

Of the top decathletes, Eaton is the best pole vaulter, and so he should extend his lead in this event. Look for something in the range of 5.10 to 5.20 meters from him. Hardee should beat Suarez in this event and by 10 to 20 centimeters; if not, then Suarez is "gaining" on Hardee in the big picture.

Decathlon Javelin Throw

1:30 PM ET

This is Eaton's weakest event by far, but as with the other throws he's been getting better. He should be happy with anything approaching 60 meters. Suarez is a great javelin thrower, and should be well over 70 meters. He should zoom up the standings after this event--the only question is if Hardee can throw far enough to give himself the big cushion he'll need going into the 1500.

Men's Triple Jump final

2:20 PM ET

The heavy favorite in this event is Team USA's defending World Champion, Christian Taylor, who is beginning to talk about world records. Among the few people who have been able to beat Taylor over the last two years is former Florida teammate Will Claye, the reigning World Indoor champion, who won a surprise bronze medal in the long jump on Saturday. If they are to be challenged, it could come in the form of Italy's Fabrizio Donato or Russian Lyukman Adams.

Women's 800 Meters semifinals

This is another three-heat setup, with the top two in each heat plus two more on time qualiying to Saturday's final.

Heat one includes medal favorite Pamela Jelimo of Kenya as well as American Alice Schmidt. Other notable competitors include Russian Ekaterina Poistogova and Ukrainian Nataliia Lupu.

Heat two has Team USA's Alysia Montano, who has so far used almost suicidal frontrunning tactics. Also in this heat is the always-unpredictable South African, Caster Semenya, along with Russia's Elena Arzhakova and Kenya's former World champion Janeth Jepkosgei.

Heat three includes another medal favorite in Russian Mariya Savinova, along with America's Geena Gall, Canadian Jessica Smith, and Burundi's Francine Niyonsaba, who has seemingly come out of nowhere this year to be a contender for the finals and possibly the podium.

Men's 800 Meters final

3:00 PM

The question here is generally not whether David Rudisha will win, but by how much. British odds have him as a 1:11 favorite (meaning you have to bet 11 to win 1), odds I've never seen anywhere for anything. As learned a sage as SI's Tim Layden thinks he's the best athlete in the Olympics, better than Bolt or Eaton. So the real race is for silver and bronze.

This being the 800, the least predictable event out there, anyone on the track has a realistic shot at those medals. Team USA has two chances in the wily Nick Symmonds and new star Duane Solomon, who has taken almost two seconds off his PR in 2012. Ethiopia's Mohammed Aman is the only man to have beaten Rudisha in recent memory, but Botswana's Nigel Amos is the fastest on the clock, at just 18 years old. And don't forget Sudan's Abubaker Kaki, who has been the #2 man behind Rudisha for years.

Men's 200 Meters

3:55 PM ET

The biggest star of the Olympics, Usain Bolt, came through for gold in the 100 meters in the second-fastest time ever run. Too many assume this mean's he's got the 200 in the bag, though, because Yohan Blake has run faster than Bolt's world record time of four years ago, and Bolt's injuries cost him training time. This race is either's to win, and should be hyped even more than the 100 was.

In their wake, who will win bronze? It's wide open. Team USA brings Wallace Spearmon and Jamaica brings newcomer Warren Weir. France's young star Christophe Lemaitre has drawn the inside lane, which can be a handicap. Holland's Churandy Martina is a seasoned veteran and quite capable of mixing it up as well.

Women's Javelin Throw final

4:00 PM ET

Four years ago, Czech Barbora Špotáková came through on her final throw to beat Russian Maria Abakumova on the 40th anniversary of the Soviet's invasion of Czechoslovakia to crush the Prague Spring, a point driven home by Špotáková in post-competition interviews. They remain as two of the best javelin throwers on the planet, but South African Sunette Viljoen has joined them at the top and poses a very real threat to win. Germany brings three finalists, led by Christina Obergföll, who has a habit of folding up in championship meets. Team USA has no finalists--American record holder Kara Patterson bravely threw on a ruptured ACL in the qualifying round--but Canada has Elizabeth Gleadle, who has added over nine feet to her PR this year.

Decathlon 1500 meters

4:20 PM

This should be a mere formality. Eaton not only should have a massive lead at this point, but he's a good 1500 runner. If silver is in play, then it becomes a game of clock-watching, because Hardee is not a good 1500 runner and Suarez is. The difference could be as much as 20 seconds or more. To be truly safe, Hardee will need to be at least 150 points ahead of Suarez going into this event.
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