Special Report

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Fastest in the World

One, if not the showcase event at every Olympic Games is the men’s 100m final. The women’s event, won by Belorussa’s Yuliya Nesterenko in 10.93s, fades into insignificance compared to the media attention lavished upon the men. Ever since Jesse Owens humiliated Hitler at the 1936 Olympics, the race has been high profile, controversial, and heroic. Carl Lewis has remained the last super-sprinter and his successors are lining up to assume the mantle of immortality. Ben Johnson’s performance is Seoul almost put him in that category until he was plunged into the valley of despair following his drug-tainted record run.

This year, 21-year-old Asafa Powell is one of the favourites for the crown, although Shawn Crawford of the US ran the fastest time of the year at 9.88s. World record holder Tim Montgomery has never repeated his 9.78s run in Paris two years ago, and is out of the reckoning. Defending Olympics champion Maurice Greene, now 30, is another who rises to the big occasion, and counted amongst the favourites in Athens. Nigerian Francis Obikwelu, who represents Portugal, ran 9.93s in qualifying, a new national record, and was a lively outsider. In the semis Shawn Crawford took the first heat with ease. In the second, a much more competitive race, Powell finished ahead of Obikwelu and Greene. The final provided a huge surprise in Justin Gatlin, US third string, who ran a lifetime best of 9.85s to take the gold ahead of Portugal’s Obikwelu – a fantastic silver for the Nigerian born former world junior champion. Greene finished in third as Crawford and Powell both disappointed.