Will the Athens Games champion, Justlin Gatlin, be able to stop Usain Bolt from making history? Or is there anyone else who has it in him to jolt Bolt and stop him from becoming the greatest athlete of the Games as he seeks to add three more golds to the six he won in Beijing and London?
The world will look for the answers as athletics unfolds at the Olympic Stadium from Friday.
Two Americans, Gatlin (9.80) and the 21-year-old Trayvon Bromell (9.84) apart from Jimmy Vicaut (9.86) of France, have clocked a better time than Bolt (9.88) this season, but the Jamaican often preserves his best for the Olympics.
The 29-year-old Bolt had been troubled by a hamstring injury during the Jamaican trials, but he was able to complete the 200m in 19.89 seconds in London to dispel clouds of doubt from the minds of his adoring fans.
Bolt will be trying to join the greats like Paavo Nurmi and Carl Lewis who have nine golds in athletics in the Olympics.
Like Bolt, compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, troubled by a toe injury this season, will also be attempting to win a third Olympic 100m gold in the women’s event.
Mo Farah will also bid to join the record books, as he has already won the double of 5,000 and 10,000 metres in two World Championships apart from the Olympics at home in London. Only Lasse Viren of Finland has accomplished the double of 5000 and 10,000 metres in two Olympics, in 1972 and 1976.
In 400m, the battle between Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa, LaShawn Merritt of the US and defending champion Kirani James of Grenada is expected to pose a serious threat to the world record of 43.18 set by Michael Johnson in 1999.
Allyson Felix, with four gold medals already in her collection, did not make the team to defend her 200m gold from London, owing to an ankle injury. She will be gunning for the women's 400m gold.
"I feel like I have made progress since the trials.The trials are so demanding physically and emotionally. It was rough on me this time. I feel close to my best", she said in a press conference.
The other star to look out for will be Jamaican woman sprinter Veronica Campbell-Brown, who will be hoping to join Merlene Ottey — the only athlete to win a medal in five Olympic Games after taking part in seven Olympics. Veronica (7) and Allyson Felix (6) will also try to reach Ottey's tally of nine Olympic medals.
Jesus Garcia of Spain will seek to compete in his seventh Olympics in the 50 km walk, and become the only man to do so. Merlene Ottey is the only woman in athletics to accomplish such a record.
World record holder Ashton Eaton of the US will seek to defend his decathlon crown and join Daley Thompson of Britain, who won two consecutive golds in 1980 and 1984.
In heptathlon, defending champion Jessica Ennis-Hill of Britain, who has returned to the competition after having a baby, will seek to emulate Jackie Joyner-Kersee of the US, who won the gold in 1988 and 1992.
Thomasz Majewski of Poland and Valerie Dams of New Zealand will be going for their third successive gold medals in men’s and women’s shot put. Valerie has done well to recover after a surgery. On the other hand, Majewski may be overshadowed by Joe Kovacs of the US and Tom Walsh of New Zealand.
Host Brazil is expected to shine through Fabiana Murer in pole vault, especially in the absence of Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia. But she is expected to face a tough challenge from Sandi Morris and Jennifer Suhr of the US.
It is going to be an exciting fight between the 37-year-old Ruth Beitia of Spain, the 32-year-old Chaunte Lowe of the US and the 18-year-old world indoor champion Vashti Cunningham of the US in women’s high jump.
In the marathon, which will start and finish at the Sambodromo, Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya will be attempting to add an Olympic medal from the event to the 5000m silver and the bronze that he had won in Beijing and Athens respectively. Stanley Biwott of Kenya, Ghirmay Ghebreslassie of Eritrea and the defending champion Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda will be the other challengers to look out for.
In women's marathon, the athletes to look out for will be Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia and Helah Kiprop of Kenya. The Ethiopian got the better of the Kenyan by one second in the World Championship in Beijing.
With such a fabulous array of stars, whether the Indian athletes will be able to draw some attention to their deeds is what remains to be seen.
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