Will the Athens Games champion Justin Gatlin be able to stop Usain Bolt from making history? Or is there anyone else who has the chops to jolt Bolt and halt him from becoming the greatest athlete of the Games as he seeks to add three more gold medals to the six he has already won, from Beijing and London?
The world will look for the answers as athletics events begin at the Olympic Stadium on Friday.
Two Americans, Gatlin (9.80) and the 21-year-old Trayvon Bromell (9.84), and Jimmy Vicaut (9.86) of France have clocked better times than Bolt (9.88) this season, but the Jamaican can beat them all here if his hamstring holds up.
Bolt will try to join athletics greats Paavo Nurmi and Carl Lewis who have nine athletics gold medals in the Olympics. Like Bolt, compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, troubled by a toe injury this season, will also attempt to win a third Olympic 100m gold in the women’s event.
The races are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.
Mo Farah will also bid to join the record books, as he has already won the double of 5,000m and 10,000m in two World championships, apart from the Olympics at home in London. Only Lasse Viren of Finland has accomplished that double in two Olympics, in 1972 and 1976.
The heat of 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 400m 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 aim for the 400m gold.
The other star Jamaican sprinter Veronica Campbell-Brown will hope to join Merlene Ottey in winning athletics medals from five Olympic Games. Campbell-Brown (7) and Felix (6) will also try to equal Ottey’s tally of nine medals.
World record-holder Ashton Eaton of the US will seek to defend his decathlon crown and join Daley Thompson of Britain who won the title in 1980 and 1984.
In heptathlon, defending champion Jessica Ennis-Hill of Great Britain, who has returned to competition, will look to emulate Jackie Joyner-Kersee of the US, who won golds in 1988 and 1992.
Tomasz Majewski of Poland and Valerie Adams of New Zealand will be going for their third successive gold medals in men’s and women’s shot put.
Host Brazil is expected to shine through Fabiana Murer in pole vault, especially in the absence of Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia. 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.
Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya will attempt to add an marathon medal to the 5,000m silver and bronze that he had won in Beijing and Athens respectively. Stanley Biwott of Kenya, Ghirmay Ghebreslassie of Eritrea and defending champion Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda are also in the fray.
The sight of a sprint to the finish by Ethiopian Mare Dibaba, who beat Kenya’s Helah Kiprop by one second in the Beijing World championship, may repeat in women’s marathon.
Whether the Indian athletes will be able to draw some attention to their deeds remains to be seen.