Usain Bolt on the track has been must-see television for quite some time, with the question not being whether or not he’ll win but by how much.
Wednesday night the Jamaican sprint king did what was expected in the semifinals of the 200, qualifying for the final with a time of 19.78 seconds. He slowed down towards the end of his heat, smiling at Canada’s Andre De Grasse as they approached the finish line with De Grasse finishing in 19.80 seconds. Bolt and De Grasse posted the two fastest times of the semifinal heats, with American LaShawn Merritt finishing in 19.94 seconds.
While Bolt is looking to complete the 100/200 double for the third consecutive Olympics, there’s also his stated desire to break his world record of 19.19 seconds to keep in mind ahead of Thursday’s final.
Posnanski: Bolt’s smile does not tell the full story
Merritt did manage to get into the final, the same can’t be said for countrymen Justin Gatlin and Ameer Webb. Gatlin, who took silver in the 100, posted a time of 20.13 seconds and missed out on the final by three one-hundredths of a second. As for Webb, his time of 20.43 seconds ranked 19th among the 24 semifinalists.
Also held Thursday night were the qualifying rounds of the men’s javelin, and USA Track and Field did not enjoy good fortune there. None of their three competitors managed to qualify for the final round, with Cyrus Hostetler’s throw of 79.76 meters being the best attempt produced by he, Sam Crouser and Sean Furey. Hostetler ranked 20th among the competitors, with Crouser and Furey finishing 34th and 35th, respectively.
The fact that the U.S. would struggle in the javelin isn’t a major surprise, as they haven’t had a medalist in the event since Bill Schmidt took silver in 1972.
Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad and Tobago led the way with a throw of 88.68 meters, and defending Olympic gold medalist Julius Yego ranked sixth among the 12 men who qualified for Saturday’s final. Germany will have three finalists, with Johannes Vetter and Julian Weber ranking second and third, respectively, and Thomas Rohler ranking ninth.
The men’s 5000 meters were also run Wednesday night, and thanks to the successful appeal of an IAAF ruling the U.S. will have three runners in the final. Hassan Mead, who was originally ruled out of the final after falling in his heat and thus not posting a time good enough to qualify, was cleared for the final following a video review of his heat. Mead joins Bernard Lagat and Paul Kipkemoi Chelimo in the final, with Chelimo posting the fastest qualifying time of 13:19.54.
Two of the three medalists in the 5000 at last year’s World Championships will also be in the final, with world champion Mo Farah of Great Britain and third-place finisher Hagos Gebrhiwet of Ethiopia making the cut.