Whether it's Ashton Eaton taking aim at his own world record in the decathlon or Galen Rupp trying to become the first U.S. medalist in the 5,000 or 10,000 in almost 50 years, athletes in field and distance events at the Olympics will surely provide plenty of drama.
Nonetheless, there's no question the glamor track and field events in London will still be the sprints and hurdles.
To preview the sprints and hurdles competition, I spoke with four-time Olympic medalist and NBC track and field analyst Ato Boldon. He shared his thoughts on whether the U.S. sprint corps will bounce back from a poor showing in 2008, which athlete he's most confident will win gold and in which race he expects a world record to fall.
[ Photos: United States star sprinter Allyson Felix ]
JE: The U.S. won only one of the six sprinting events in Beijing in 2008 and only two of the four hurdles events. Do you envision the U.S. bouncing back in London or will Jamaica again have the upper hand, especially in the short sprints?
AB: I think the U.S. is going to bounce back. That's because when I start looking at who I have to win certain events, the only event I have the Jamaicans winning on the women's side in terms of short sprints is the 100. I don't think they'll win the 200 and they're certainly not going to win the women's 400. Then on the men's side, the Jamaicans are probably going to win the 100 and the 200, but they're certainly not going to win the 400. So just by virtue of that, that is more medals than the U.S. got in Beijing in those six events.
JE: What sprints or hurdles event if any do you think we're most likely to see a world record fall?
AB: The men's short hurdles. That's the one race I feel is going to finish in a world record and it's the only race I feel is going to finish in a world record in the events that I cover. Unless the conditions are absolutely horrendous, I think to win in London you have to break the world record because the way that Liu Xiang has been running this year and the way that Aries Merritt has been living under 13 seconds. The record is only 12.87 seconds, so it's not going to take that much more for that record to fall.
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JE: Since Usain Bolt's false start at the World Championships last year, he has struggled a bit at least by his standards. What form do you think he'll be in the next two weeks? Will he be as dominant as he was in Beijing?
AB: My guess is Bolt will come back better than he was at the Jamaican trials but not good enough to beat [Yohan] Blake in the 100. But that is only a guess because at the trials, he was not healthy and it's hard to gauge someone when they're not ready. I believe he will get in reasonable readiness, but I don't think it's going to matter. The problem with Bolt saying, 'My hamstring, my hamstring' was that people overlooked the fact that Johan Blake ran 9.75, making him the fourth-fastest man ever. Nobody was beating Blake at trials. I really don't think so. Not that weekend.
JE: Allyson Felix has a pair of silver medals in the 200 meters at the last two Olympics. Is this the year she finally wins gold?
AB: Not only do I believe Allyson Felix will get her gold in the 200, there will be nobody remotely close to her. That is how sure I am. Her challengers are not really up to the task. Shelly-Ann Frazier ran very well this year, but she's not in Allyson's league in the 200. Veronica Campbell-Brown is struggling more than she has struggled in the past eight years. So I think Allyson, after near misses and near misses, will have a blowout. I think she's going to win by a very wide margin.
JE: At a Diamond League event earlier this month, Kellie Wells beat a strong field in the women's 100-meter hurdles that included world champ Sally Pearson of Australia. Is Pearson still the favorite, or can one of the Americans (Wells, Dawn Harper or Lolo Jones) beat her?
AB: The favorite is the young lady who ran 12.28 last year to win worlds, Sally Pearson. She just lost and that was a little bit of an upset, but she ran 12.5 and I don't expect her to run 12.5 in London. There's parity in that event below Pearson and that will make for a very good race, but I still think Pearson is a young lady who is going in there as the favorite.
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