For many Olympic fans the Games don’t really begin until athletics is underway – especially when Rio 2016 is the last one for sprinter Usain Bolt and his American foil, Justin Gatlin. Bolt is going for the ‘triple triple,’ trying to win gold medals in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 4×100 relay for the third consecutive games.
However, Jamaica’s national hero has not exactly been blowing away the competition in the past few months, having missed his nation’s Olympic Trials due to a hamstring injury. Bolt also had a relatively pedestrian 19.89-second 200 when he qualified at the longer distance. Of course, Bolt has only one career loss in major international meets, which came when he was disqualified for a false start.
The qualifying for the 100 begins Saturday, with the final on Sunday night. Bolt is the -200 favorite at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com, with Gatlin the only counterpart with low odds at +165. Bolt’s compatriot, Yohan Blake, is listed at +1100. Canada’s 21-year-old Andre DeGrasse is listed at +2200, but it’s more likely his peak will come in four years at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Bolt is listed at -300 in the 200 meters, which will unfold from Tuesday through Thursday. Bolt has vowed to lower the world record of 19.19, but American LaShawn Merritt at +750 has been recording impressive results all season. Gatlin is a nominal second favorite at +325.
The 4×100 heats take place next Thursday, the same day as the 200 final, with the final next Friday. Two-time defending champion Jamaica is the chalk pick at -200 at the sportsbooks. The Americans, who were stripped of their 2012 Olympic silver due to Tyson Gay’s positive drug test, are listed at +185.
Relay success often demands a country have a deep bench, so to speak, of five sprinters, and there probably isn’t anyone to rival the United States and Jamaica. After those two, the board spreads out to Great Britain at +2200.
Bolt isn’t the heaviest favorite on the Rio Olympics odds board for athletics, however. Poland’s Pawel Fajdek and Anita Wlodarczyk (men’s and women’s hammer throw) and South Africa’s Caster Semenya (women’s 800) are all -2000 favorites for their events.