The sun beat down on the Olympic Stadium on Thursday but it was a bleak morning for two men’s 4×400 metres relay medal contenders as Jamaica and Kenya failed to advance to the final after an injury and a collision.
The 4×400 relay is always one of the most exciting and incident-packed events of the Games athletics programme and it lived up to its billing on Thursday.
On a relatively thin schedule for the fans it became the focus of their attention and gave them plenty to shout about.
Host nation Britain, with a rich heritage in the event, produced an impressive run in the first of two heats as the fans found their voice.
Anchor Martyn Rooney eased up on the line to allow Trinidad and Tobago to pip them in a national record of three minutes, 0.38 seconds – both teams progressing with the same time.
The bigger drama took place earlier, however, and robbed the crowd of the opportunity of seeing South African double-amputee Oscar Pistorius in action.
Pistorius had controversially been listed to run the third leg, despite the risk of rivals tripping on his carbon-fibre prosthetic “blades” in the melee of the changeover.
However, he was left a forlorn figure as second-leg runner Ofentse Mogawane collided with Kenya’s Vincent Mumo Kiilu coming into the home straight, both men crashing to the floor. Mogawane was unable to continue for last year’s world championship runners up.
SOUTH AFRICA APPEAL
Kiilu picked himself up but was 40 metres adrift and his team were out of it – robbing the final of the planned appearance of 800 world record holder David Rudisha.
They were later disqualified “as their runner had cut across and caused the South African runner to fall,” the IAAF said in a statement.
South Africa were advanced to the final by the jury of appeal even though they did not finish the race.
Jamaica, who took bronze in the 2011 worlds, paid a heavy price for using Jermaine Gonzales despite him carrying a hamstring injury, as he pulled up midway through his third leg.
The Bahamas, silver medallists in the 2008 Games, crossed the line together with the United States in the second heat, also in an identical time.
The Americans, seeking an eighth successive gold in the race, will start favourites for the final with some fresh legs to come in but they will have to work for the gold this time in what could be a spectacular Friday finale.
Eaton remains on course for decathlon gold going into the pole vault, javelin and 400 metres having maintained his lead after his two weakest events, the shot and discus, split by the morning’s 110 hurdles.
Eaton leads world champion Hardee by 99 points, with Ukraine’s Sergie Kasyanov 298 points off the pace.
Russia’s high jump world champion Anna Chicherova, the world leader with 2.03 metres, and defending champion Tia Hellebaut advanced to Saturday’s women’s final along with all the other likely medal contenders.
American Amy Acuff, competing at her fifth Olympics and hoping to improve on a best finish of fourth in 2004, failed to progress. Croatia’s former world champion and 2008 silver medallist Blanka Vlasic is absent through injury.
The temperature will drop but the atmosphere will be considerably hotter later on Thursday when Usain Bolt steps on to the track seeking to become the first man to win the 200 twice and the first to complete the remarkable double-double of both sprint titles.
Bolt is hot favourite for the event and if the wind is in his favour his remarkable 19.19 second world record from the 2009 world championships could be under threat.
Team mate Yohan Blake, the second fastest man ever with 19.26, is the only runner in the field likely to mount a serious challenge.
Rudisha looks similarly unbackable in the men’s 800 while the women’s javelin, men’s triple jump and decathlon also reach their conclusion.