The biggest clash on the Olympic track is on! Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin both won their 100-meter semifinal heats and are set to resume their tense rivalry later Sunday in the final.And the near sellout crowd at the 60,000-capacity Olympic stadium immediately showed where their support would go _ wildly cheering Bolt and roundly booing Gatlin.
Bolt was slow out of the blocks again but powered through the midsection before easing across the line in a season’s best time of 9.86. He had time to look left and right before turning the power off, showing off the smile the world has come to love. Andre de Grasse of Canada finished in 9.92 to go through.
Gatlin was all business, fast from the start and barely letting up at the finish for a time of 9.94. He immediately disappeared into the stadium tunnel after his win.
Jimmy Vicaut of France won the first heat in 9.95, turning around a disappointing season with a place in the final.
With his overpowering performance, Bolt is the big favorite to win his third consecutive Olympic 100 title. Gatlin won at the 2004 Athens Games.
One year ago, Bolt staged a thrilling come-from-behind win over Gatlin at the Beijing world championships to capture his third world title in the 100. Sunday’s final will be their first meeting since over the distance.
With his doping past, Gatlin has been portrayed as the villain by some in his rivalry with Bolt. It is what the crowd showed with massive decibels.
As soon as Bolt came on, the cheers enveloped him and soon, just about everyone was shouting “Bolt-Bolt-Bolt.”
Gatlin got the opposite. Even though he will never be a big crowd pleaser, such a negative reaction has been much more an exception than the rule in his career.
In the women’s 400, Allyson Felix glided into her final, barely breaking a sweat as she ran a season’s best of 49.67 to reach Monday’s final.