U.S. Olympic Trials Kick Off Today in Eugene, by Bob Ramsak


The wait is over!



By Bob Ramsak
(c) 2008 TRACK PROFILE Report, all rights reserved

For the next 10 days, the focus of the athletics world will shift to Eugene, Oregon, host to the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field. With its unforgiving ‘top three past the post’ qualifying nature, the U.S. trials have been dubbed the most exciting track meet in the world. Upwards of 500 written press journalists, along with a few hundred broadcast and photojournalists will converge on the American track capital, putting a huge quadrennial spotlight on the sport in the U.S.

The only final on the program of the opening day is the women’s 10,000m. The event features a pair of potential Olympic medal threats, the first in the recent history of U.S. distance running on the track.

Shalane Flanagan, already the national record holder in the 5000m, lowered the U.S. record in the 10,000 to 30:34.49 in April, the fastest in the world thus far this year. She’ll face Kara Goucher, the surprise bronze medallist at last year’s world championships. Goucher tuned up for the trials with a 31:26.48 run a month ago in Portland while Flanagan makes her first track appearance since her record run. She is also expected to compete in the 5000.

Also on the slate tonight is Bernard Lagat, a two-time Olympic 1500m medallist for his native Kenya, who kicks of his attempt at succeeding his long-time rival Hicham El Guerrouj as Olympic 1500 and 5000m champion. Lagat turned the trick at last summer’s world championships in Osaka and is a strong favorite to finish in the top-three at both distances in Eugene. It will be a long trials for Lagat: the opening round of the 5000 is today, with the final of the 1500m scheduled for Sunday, July 6, the trials’ final day.

The opening day also features the first day of the heptathlon, and qualifying rounds in the women’s 100m, triple jump, discus throw, men’s and women’s 800m and 400m hurdles, and the men’s pole vault, long jump, and shot put.

Fans can keep abreast of the action via the USA Track & Field website at http://www.usatf.org/events/2008/OlympicTrials-TF/schedule.asp . For American viewers, a full schedule of television coverage is here: http://www.usatf.org/events/2008/OlympicTrials-TF/TVSchedule.asp .


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