Originally written on Just Cover Blog  |  Last updated 9/11/14

After Canada’s Donovan Bailey won the 100 Meter Dash in the 1996 Atlanta Games, the United States responded with a decade long run of dominance in the event. They won seven of eight major championships after that, including gold medals in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics by Maurice Greene and Justin Gatlin. But that stretch seems like ancient history these days. The Yanks have been without a major title in this event since 2007 as they, along with the rest of the world, have ceded this race to the Jamaicans. A lot of that capitulation has to do with the insane talent that is Usain Bolt. But when Bolt was tossed out of last summer’s world championships after a false start, it was Yohan Blake, another freaskishly talented prodigy from the island nation, who flew right by everybody for the title.

The world’s fastest men (and women too, really) are from Jamaica, and I doubt anything will happen during this track meet to change those opinions.  The United States has won gold in this event 17 times in the Olympics, but you’d be hard pressed to find another time in track history where America’s hopes in the 100 were as dim as they are now. Only three times have the Americans failed to win gold in back-to-back Olympics, but they’re hours away from that happening a fourth time. The Yanks longest gold drought in this event is 16 years between Mexico City Gold in 1968 and LA Gold in 1984, and unless one of their sprinters can spring an upset, we’re ensured of seeing the current goldless run reach 12 years before the Rio Games arrive. But I dont know if this perceived low ebb of legit gold expectations is because USA’s entrants arent up to their usual world class level. Nobody can compete right now with the Bolt-Blake Jamaican tandem. They just seem to be on another level. Bolt spent the first two years after his Olympic title re-writing the record book. Blake is the first person to come along since that might be able match up with Bolt’s speed, athleticism and raw talent.

Oddsmakers show a two-man race between the Jamaicans. They list Bolt to win at -140, with Blake at +150. Over at sportsbook.com, I found a prop on margin of victory, over/under 0.05 seconds. That seems like a razor thin margin for a race against Bolt, but it respects Blake’s talent and legit chances to beat his countryman head to head tonight. At 5Dimes, you can bet on will we see a Jamaican 1-2 finish in this event, regardless of runner or order (so, yes, you get Asafa Powell in your pocket on this one too) with a yes bet having -185 odds and No at +155.

On one hand this is a star studded field. No shortage of runners with impressive accolades on their resume exists. Tyson Gay was the 2007 World Champion. Gatlin has an Olympic and World Title to his name. Asafa Powell has been a medal podium regular at major events during his career. Daniel Bailey has a World Championship silver medal and is one of the few who’ve raced in the championship final of the last two worlds. Kim Collins has a world title under his belt and last summer earned bronze at the World Championships becoming the oldest to ever medal in the event. Trinidad/Tobago brings three runners to the dance who have all run under 10 seconds in the past. However, the Jamaican pair makes all that hardware seem irrelevant. Or a series of secondary prizes and titles seemingly earned a lifetime ago (which for Gatlin is actually true). This is an impressive field they’re expected to dominate tonight.

There are three semifinal heats, beginning at 2:45 pm. The top two runners in each heat as well as the next two best overall times qualify for the gold medal race. The spring for medals closes the day at track and field with an approximate 4:50 pm start time. You can watch the entire track meet play out live with the brilliant online feed provided. Or wait for NBC’s canned, package tape delay coverage this evening in primetime.

In the first semifinal, Gatlin and Powell race. Gatlin missed out on the finals a year ago at worlds, while Powell had to drop out of the meet on account of a groin injury. Both come in running pretty well since then. Powell ran a personal best at 60 meters during the indoor circuit and won a Diamond League race in Shangai. Gatlin has won three times on the Diamon Circuit, including the first meet of the season three months ago when he beat Powell at the tape. Neither Bolt, not Blake ran in any of their wins, however.  Look out for Trinidad/Tobago’s Keston Bledman and Dutch Martina Churandy. They are the only two others in the heat whose personal best are below 10 seconds. The online book 5Dimes is actually taking bets on who will win these heats. The line they’ve released is Gatlin -140 vs the rest of the field +110.

The second heat is Bolt’s. After him its an interesting field, including three runners who advanced into the 2009 world championship title race: Daniel Bailey, Antigua/Barbuda; Richard Thomspon, Trinidad/Tobago; and Dwain Chambers, Great Britian. Bailey eventually earned the silver medal. Bailey is the only one in this heat who ran in the finals in the 2011 world championships last summer. That includes Bolt who was DQed. Chambers was also disqualified. So you have the world’s best and the hometown’s best hope in this event both trying to make amends for bitter failures on the last major stage. It will be hard for American Ryan Bailey to get out of this heat and into the finals. Which is too bad, because he’s a great story having overcome a really crappy childhood to eventually get to this Olympic moment. He’s been slowly, but surely coming along in this event and ran his second best time ever in the Olympic Trials to get on the team.  It’ll be interesting watching him race in Bolt’s heat. He stands 6/4, so he’s got the size that helps make Bolt so unbeatable when combined with his speed. I dont know if he’s ever raced in a heat with Bolt before. It’ll be fun watching him try and seize his moment. Bolt is -300 to win this heat, while you get +240 odds if you take the field against him.

The final heat includes Blake and Gay, two of the last three world champions. For Blake, its time to prove he can do it again on such a big stage, but also prove he can do it in a race with Bolt. For Gay, its a moment four years in the making. His 2008 Olympics were a disaster. Injuries during the meet hampered his ability to compete. He was part of a baton drop that eliminated the Americans in the semifinals of the 4×100 relay. He’s done everything in his career except perform well in Olympics. He’s battled four years and a hip surgery to get this second chance. His personal best of 9.65 is better than Blake’s personal best of 9.71, so maybe he’s not as overly overmatched as we’re making it out to be. Blake is -410 to win the heat. Playing the field gives you +315 odds.

Its always must see TV when Bolt is in the house. So it should be a fun day at the track. Here are the current odds at BetUs.com to win gold: Bolt, -150; Blake +145; Ryan Bailey, +1500; Gatlin +1800, Gay +2500; Powell +4000; Bledman +20000; Daniel Bailey +20000; and Martina +25000. I have no idea why Bailey has the shortest odds of the Americans. Other bets I can find on this race include picking runners to make the medal stand. Obviously Bolt and Blake have ridiculous odds. Over at 5Dimes, a yes bet requires a -1150 and -700 bet on behalf of Bolt and Blake respectively, while Bolt missing the medal stand pays out at +740 and Blake +500. Gay is -135 to make the medal stand, -110 to miss; Gatlin is +180 to medal, -250 to not; Ryan Bailey and Powell have to same +230 odds to medal, -300  to not. Think it will be a fast race? Then take a look at the Over/Under 5.5 runners to run the gold medal race in less than 10 seconds. Whatever you do, have a blast watching the Olympics today.

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