Bolt wins semi in 200 meters; Oliver, Robles strong in 110 hurdles
BEIJING -- Usain Bolt played to the cameras before his 200-meter semifinal and slowed down before it was over -- the usual drill for a sprinter who doesn't look like he can be beaten at these Olympics.
The Jamaican sprinter, who set the world record in the 100 at 9.69 seconds Saturday, beat defending 200 champion Shawn Crawford of the United States by 0.03 second. The noticeable difference, though, was that Bolt appeared to be loping to the line, while Crawford was busting across at full speed.
"I wouldn't say jogging," Bolt said. "I'm just trying to get through to the next round."
American Wallace Spearmon used a late burst to finish third and will join a third American, Walter Dix, in the final Wednesday night.
Bolt had fun during his short stay on the track, pretending to smooth his closely shaven hair before the start and pointing toward the camera before he climbed into the starting block.
Starting in Lane 6, it took him about 10 steps to make up the lag against Spearmon in Lane 7. Crawford was in Lane 5 and actually looked like he might win the heat, but Bolt passed him for the win -- and possibly to send a message to one of his prime contenders for the gold.
The big question, however, is are there any real challengers?
Bolt's win by 0.2 second in the 100 was impressive not just because of the world record, but because he was hamming it up -- pounding his chest and holding out his hands -- with about 20 meters to go. His left shoelace was even untied.
He broke his own world record by 0.03 second. Next up is a run at Michael Johnson's mark of 19.32 in the 200, a record set 12 years ago.
In qualifying for the 110-meter hurdles, with two top medal contenders out, American David Oliver ran a strong quarterfinal heat Tuesday night to advance along with world record-holder Dayron Robles of Cuba.
Oliver finished in 13.60 seconds to win his heat by 0.23 second.
The U.S. Olympic trials champion, Oliver came into the games widely considered in the medal mix. His chances for gold increased when China's Liu Xiang withdrew in the first round with a foot injury and America's two-time Olympic silver medalist, Terrence Trammell, pulled out because of a hamstring strain.
The 110-hurdles final Thursday night was supposed to be one of the highlight events of these Olympics, with Liu -- one of China's biggest celebrities -- trying to defend his Olympic title in the 91,000-seat Bird's Nest.
Instead, it is setting up as a chance for Robles to improve the record time of 12.87 seconds he ran in June and Oliver, whose personal best is 12.95, trying to pull an upset.
Robles easily won his quarterfinal in 13.19 seconds.
American David Payne also advanced and said that with Liu gone, the race is open.
"That's a medal for anybody that steps up," Payne said.
There were no surprises in the second round of women's 200 heats. Americans Allyson Felix, Muna Lee and Marshevet Hooker all made it through, as did the Jamaican trio of Veronica Campbell-Brown, Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart.
In the 100, the Jamaicans swept and the Americans finished 4-5-8. The two countries could again earn six of the eight spots in Thursday night's 200 final.
"It fueled my fire," Lee said of Jamaica's dominance. "I'll just think about that in the final."
In women's 5,000-meter semis, American Shalane Flanagan kept her hopes alive for two Olympic medals.
Flanagan overcame stomach troubles to win bronze in the 10,000 and said she's still celebrating that success.
"It's beautiful," she said. "It's kind of like I'd imagine if you have a newborn child. You're fascinated with it. You're like, 'Wow, that really is mine? That's mine?'"
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press