Sprint showdown set at Jamaican Olympic trials
Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell's showdown in the 100 metres tops the lineup at the Jamaican Olympic Athletic Trials, which open on Thursday at National Stadium in Kingston.
Almost as soon as they went on sale Tuesday morning, tickets for the four-day meet were sold out, especially for Friday's men's and women's 100m finals.
Bolt, the reigning world record-holder with a run of 9.58 seconds at Berlin in 2009, won Olympic gold in the 100, 200 and 4x100 relay in 2008 at Beijing.
But at last year's world championships in South Korea, Bolt false started in the 100 final and compatriot Yohan Blake took the world crown in the absence of his training partner Bolt.
That set the stage for what Jamaican track and field fans have been calling the most important national team trials ever staged.
Nearly 400 athletes are set to compete for about 60 berths in London on what could be the largest Jamaican athletics delegation ever sent to an Olympics.
While Jamaicans have made strides in other events, nothing has captured the imagination more than the 100, which features seven men who have run under 10 seconds.
An eighth, Nickel Ashmeade, lowered his personal best to 9.93 earlier this year but has only entered the 200.
A field of 51 men will seek one of three trips to London on offer in the 100 compared to only 21 entrants in the women's 100.
Reigning Olympic champion Bolt, reigning world champion Blake and former world record-holder Powell are favorites in the 100.
But relay gold medalists Michael Frater and Nesta Carter, Commonwealth Games and Pan American championships 100m winner Lerone Clarke and 2011 world 200m semifinalist Mario Forsythe are all under 10 seconds as well.
Adding to the excitement are a group of young runners threatening to crash the party, led by World University Games 100m champion Jacques Harvey, World University Games 200m runner-up Jason Young and Winston Barnes, all just above 10 seconds.
Bolt owns the two fastest times in the world so far this year at 9.76 from a victory in Rome last month and 9.79 from a victory earlier this month at Oslo, making him the solid favorite with Blake and Powell just behind him.
Powell edged Blake for the Jamaican title last year with Bolt sitting out thanks to a bye into the World Championships. Blake still seeks his first win over Powell, who will try to atone for fifth places in the last two Olympics.
Bolt and Blake, the two fastest men ever in the 200, are the clear class of that field and could push each other to a fast time in the event, to be contested Sunday evening as the final event of the meet.
Until her superb season-best 10.92 seconds to win at New York, 2008 Olympic 100m champion Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce had looked vulnerable, but is now a firm favorite and is expected to battle Veronica Campbell Brown for gold.
Campbell Brown has run sparingly this season but will be seeking a date with destiny as she tries to become the first women to win three consecutive 200m Olympic titles.
The sprint hurdles are expected to be exciting as well with promising Hansel Parchment, who has opened eyes since last year when he won the World University Games title, having since lowered his personal best to 13.19 seconds, the top Jamaican time so far this year.
He will face seasoned Dwight Thomas and US college champion Andrew Riley in the 110m hurdles.
Brigitte Foster Hylton seems to have recaptured the form that saw her win the 2009 world title and could be a factor in London while quarter-miler Novlene Williams Mills, who led the world earlier in the season, could produce another fast time.