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Olympic  2000  Overview
 

22.9.00
 

By TERENCE HILTON-CLARKE
 

EVEN with the Olympic Games in full flow at the moment, a lot of attention will be riveted on the Sydney Olympic Stadium, this weekend, when the track and field competition gets underway.

Traditionally the showpiece event of the Games, athletics will dominate the multi-sport event during the second week- and it will be especially important for Trinidad and Tobago. This country has competed in track and field in eleven out of its previous twelve Olympic Games appearances and, this time, the spotlight will definitely be on sprinter Ato Boldon. The 26-year old is viewed as one of American world record holder Maurice Greene’s main challengers in the men’s 100 metres, and is the top favourite himself in the 200 m. He is, without a doubt, THE major medal contender for Trinidad and Tobago, just as he was in Atlanta, four years ago.

But, the situation in Sydney is different. Since 1996, Boldon has added a lot of precious accolades to his résumé: he is a former 200 m world champion; he is the reigning Commonwealth Games 100 m champion; he regularly records sub-10 and sub-20 times in the 100 and 200 m, respectively, and since 1998 he has been, perhaps, the number 2 sprinter in the world behind training partner, Greene.

As mentioned before, the two have been designated as the main favourites in the 100 and 200 m. However, there are a couple of differences. First, while Greene has appeared near invincible in the 100 m – even clocking 9.86 seconds  a couple of weeks after sustaining an injury at the US Olympic Trials – Boldon has faltered on a couple of occasions this season and came last in his final 100 metre race prior to the games, in Berlin, in a disappointing time of 10.23. However, Boldon’s consistent performances in the 200 (he has won all three of his races on the Grand Prix circuit), combined with the absences of Greene and Olympic champion Michael Johnson, have made him the favourite in the half-lap event. Another difference is that while Greene’s challengers include the likes of Boldon, compatriot Jon Drummond (who has clocked 9.96 this season), Barbadian Obadele Thompson (9.97), Nigerian Francis Obikwelu (9.97), Canadian Bruny Surin and Great Britain’s Darren Campbell, Boldon’s competition in the 200 m does not appear as deep. Apart from Thompson and Obikwelu, there are no obvious threats on the horizon. This fact can be interpreted as a two-edged sword: on one side, the lack of many challengers could make things easier for Boldon; on the other end, there is always the possibility of fatal complacency entering the room.

Still, Boldon’s status as pre-race favourite should be viewed as an honour for a man who truly deserves it. This is because the accolade of being the number one guy for the gold, is bestowed upon those who have proven themselves to the be the best in the world in their chosen field. With Greene and Johnson out, Boldon is currently the top 200-metre runner in the Olympic bracket. It is a status that Boldon has earned over the past five years and, even if it did take misfortune on the part of the two aforementioned rivals to push Boldon into the top spot, the overall record this year speaks for itself. Now, it is up to Boldon, himself, to confirm his present position.