Kingston - Usain Bolt will embark on the
first major test of what he plans to be a triumphant swansong here Thursday as
the Jamaican Olympic athletics trials get under way.
With less than 40 days to go before the
Olympics, the sprint superstar will aim to seal his ticket to Rio as he targets
a defence of his 100 metres, 200m and 4x100m crowns.
Bolt, who completed an unprecedented second
consecutive set of victories in all three events at the London 2012 Games, is
hoping to complete a remarkable "Triple Triple."
So far this season, the signs have been
encouraging that Bolt is firmly on track, with the 29-year-old clocking a
blistering 9.88 seconds at a meeting in Kingston on June 11, the second-fastest
time in the world this year.
Only France's Jimmy Vicaut, who clocked a
wind-assisted 9.86sec earlier in June, has run faster this season.
Unlike the IAAF world Championships, there
are no byes to the Olympics and under the rules of the Jamaica Athletics
Administrative Association (JAAA) rules every athlete seeking to be chosen for
Rio Games must compete at the trials.
Bolt's main challenge is likely to come
from Yohan Blake and Nickel Ashmeade, both of whom have clocked under 10
seconds this season at 9.94sec.
Blake committed the cardinal sin of
defeating Bolt at the trials for London four years ago but ultimately finished
behind his training partner at the Games themselves.
With Bolt and Blake favoured to take two of
the 100m berths, Ashmeade will likely face competition from Asafa Powell and
Kemar Bailey-Cole for the third spot.
Heats begin Thursday at Kingston's National
Stadium with the final set for Friday.
While Bolt has yet to run a 200m so far
this year, he will start as favourite to win over the longer distance with
Ashmeade, the fastest Jamaican so far this year with 20.07sec, Julian Forte,
Warren Weir and Commonwealth Games champion Rasheed Dwyer all in the mix.
In the women's events, Shelly-Ann
Fraser-Pryce will aim to book her place for Rio after a season which has been
disrupted by an injury to a big toe.
Fraser-Pryce, the 100m champion at the 2008
and 2012 Games and reigning world champion, is also chasing a place in the 200m
Veteran Veronica Campbell-Brown, 34, will
also be running in the 100m and 200m as she attempts to qualify for what would
be her fifth and possibly last Olympics.
Campbell-Brown who has eight Olympic
medals, is the Jamaican leader in the 100m while Elaine Thompson who took silver
in the World Indoors this year, leads the 200m rankings.
Elsewhere this weekend, world leader Omar
McLeod and Olympic bronze medallist Hansle Parchment are on course to clash in
the 110m hurdles on Sunday.
McLeod has the four fastest times in the
world so far this year while Parchment is third and their battle could
overshadow the 200m.