Athletics centre-stage as Phelps chases more gold


The Olympics glamour sport of track and field made an electrifying start Friday as Michael Phelps prepared to chase down his third gold medal of the Games. The opening day of the athletics competition saw an unprecedented sell-out crowd of 80,000 pack the Olympic Stadium for the morning session, with British golden girl Jessica Ennis making her much-anticipated entrance in heptathlon.
With a vociferous home support roaring her on, Ennis did not disappoint, clocking the best time ever recorded in the 100m hurdles discipline of her opening seven-event heptathlon. The 26-year-old flew over her hurdles flawlessly in a superb 12.54sec, shaving 0.25sec off her previous best and equalling the winning time of American Dawn Harper in the indivudal event at the 2008 Olympics. Ennis’s quest for gold will see her participate in three events on Friday before the heptathlon is completed on Saturday. Two medals will be decided in track and field on Friday, the women’s 10,000m and the men’s shot put. A total of 22 medals will be up for grabs across the Games, with hosts Britain adding to Thursday’s three-gold haul early on with a victory in the women’s double sculls rowing. A slice of history was made in the judo competition where Wojdan Shaherkani became the first Saudi Arabian woman to compete at an Olympics. Shaherkani, 16, lasted a mere 82 seconds on her Olympic debut after a build-up which had been dominated by a row concerning her hijab. The Saudi teenager broke down in tears after her defeat in the heavyweight competition against Melissa Mojica of Puerto Rico, admitting she had been overwhelmed by the occasion.
“I was disturbed and afraid at the beginning, it was my first time in a big competition and there was a lot of pressure because of the hijab issue,” she said. “I was not comfortable because I didn’t have any experience of big events. It took its toll on me.” At the Aquatics Centre, Phelps will aim to consolidate his position as the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time in the 100m butterfly. Phelps roared back to form on Thursday with an imperious victory in the 200m individual medley, consolidating his newly-acquired status as the most successful athlete in Olympic history with a record 20th medal.