Some of Northeast Ohio's best figure skating talent will be on display at the Mentor Civic Arena on Saturday for a free skating exhibition.
LONDON - Well, that sure was fast. Expectations that the London Olympics track meet would be filled with good times were quickly confirmed on Day 1, with seven sprinters running women's 100-meter heats in 11 seconds or better Friday night, led by the 10.83 turned in by world champion Carmelita Jeter of the U.S.
She was joined in Saturday's semifinals by Americans Allyson Felix and Elyria, Ohio native Tianna Madison. Defending Olympic gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce won her heat in 11 flat; her Jamaican teammates Veronica Campbell-Brown and Kerron Stewart also advanced.
Entering the semifinals of the women's 100 in Beijing four years ago, there was a grand total of one dash of 11 seconds or better -- Stewart's 10.98.
"This is way fast. I literally ran zero to 60, shut it down and then ran (10.99)," said Murielle Ahoure of the Ivory Coast, who set a national record while finishing ahead of Stewart in Friday's final 100 heat. "I can't believe it. Whoa. Fast track."
Imagine, then, what world-record holder Usain Bolt and his training partner, world champion Yohan Blake, might do when they get their first chance to race in 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium as the men's 100 heats begin Saturday.
The women will race their semifinals and final Saturday, and the potential for a U.S. vs. Jamaica showdown is certainly in the offing.
Not long after the stadium announcer's voice boomed over the loudspeakers, alerting fans to what he called a "very fast track," Jeter built a massive lead of about 10 feet by the halfway mark of her heat. Jeter, of Gardena, Calif., won by nearly a half-second, the gold-colored soles of her neon green spikes reflecting the arena's artificial lights.
"I just had to come out and execute, like my coach wanted me to do," Jeter said. "I still have two more rounds to go. Everybody's going definitely be running their hearts out tomorrow."
Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria delivered the second-fastest heat time, 10.93, one of eight women who ran a personal best in the night's seven heats. Okagbare finished ahead of Madison, who clocked 10.97.
"Oh, yeah, sub-11 is always fun," Madison said.
Felix, who barely made the U.S. team in the 100, had to settle for a time of 11.01, but that was good enough to win her heat. The early stages of sprint events often produce relatively mediocre times, because competitors are really only concerned with automatically advancing to the next round with a top-three finish.
A two-time silver medalist in the Olympic 200, Felix finished in a dead heat for third place in the 100 at U.S. trials and appeared headed for a run-off to break that tie until the other woman involved conceded the spot on the London team.
Campbell-Brown, who begins defense of her two consecutive Olympic golds in the 200 on Monday, won her heat in 10.94, while Fraser-Pryce never needed to push herself while taking hers.
Asked about the track, Fraser-Pryce replied: "I didn't get a chance to test it out. I'll let you know tomorrow."
The semifinals are Saturday, August 4, 2012 at 7:35 p.m. EST. The finals are Saturday, August 4, 2012 at 9:55 p.m. EST.
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