Yohan Blake (Photo: Reuters)
Usain Bolt used this meet at Icahn Stadium on Randall's Island as his coming out party four years ago, setting his first world record with a startling time of 9.72 seconds in the 100 meters before going on to double Olympic glory in Beijing.
Blake would love to emulate training partner Bolt, though he stopped short of world record predictions for Saturday's 100 metres, insisting his focus is strictly on winning hardware at the London Games.
"I don't really think about world records. It happens. Given a good day, a good condition, I'm feeling great, anything is possible out here," Blake told reporters at a news conference ahead of the meet. "I'm just thinking Olympics, I'm just thinking the gold."
The meet on the small island in the East River across from the skyline of Manhattan features athletes from 42 countries including 72 Olympic or world championships medalists gearing up for the July 27-August 12 London Games.
The women's 100 metres also promises fireworks.
American Carmelita Jeter, the reigning world champion, 2008 Olympic gold medalists Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, world championship bronze medalists Kelly-Ann Baptiste of Trinidad and Tobago and three-time world 200 metres champion Allyson Felix of the U.S. comprise an impressive field.
The 22-year-old Blake, who considers the 200 metres his better distance, said he wants to follow in Bolt's fast footsteps by doubling up at the Olympics.
Bolt won both the 100 and 200 metres in world record time at the 2008 Beijing Games, and Blake aches to add to his 2011 world championship win, which came after Bolt was disqualified for a false start.
"Everybody wants to be that number one person. They don't want to be that second guy," Blake, who goes by the nickname "The Beast," said about making his own golden Olympic memories.
"I already have a world championship. For me that don't count. That was last year. This year is this year. This is going to be my first Olympics. I want to have a medal at the Olympics. That's where I want my respect."
Among those lining up against Blake will be Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist, and American Trell Kimmons, this year's U.S. indoor champion.
At the other end of the track spectrum, the women's 5,000 metres offers a showdown between top Ethiopian runners.
World record holder and 2008 double Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba (5,000 and 10,000 meters) will be going against rival Meseret Defar.
Defar, the 2004 Olympic 5,000 meters gold medalist and former world record holder, has not raced against Dibaba since 2009. Eight-time world cross country championships medalist Werknesh Kidane of Ethiopia is also in the field.
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