By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
LONDON (CNN) – The world will watch Thursday as Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt bids to become the first man to win the Olympic sprint double twice — with compatriot Yohan Blake likely to be the chief obstacle in his path.
Wallace Spearmon of the United States may also give the pair a run for their money, but both Jamaican powerhouses cruised to victory in their heats and look hard to beat.
Blake, who beat Bolt at the Jamaican trials, says he is focused on his race rather than the showman out to steal the thunder.
“I’m not really focusing on beating him. I’m concentrating on running my race. My plan is just to execute,” he said after the semifinals Wednesday.
Bolt, who held Blake to second place in the 100-meter final, told the BBC, the official broadcaster for the London Games, that he is confident of conquering his closest rival.
“No doubt whatsoever. I’m ready, this is my favorite event, so I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I know what I can do — I never doubt myself.”
Whether Bolt achieves his landmark or not, history will be made on day 13 of the Games when either Team GB’s Nicola Adams or China’s Ren Cancan, the reigning world champion, becomes the first woman ever to win an Olympic boxing gold, in the flyweight final.
The sport, which was only opened up to women in the London Games, has proved popular with the crowds and seen skilful sparring in the ring.
Ireland’s Katie Taylor is favorite to win in the women’s lightweight final a short time later. If she succeeds, she will give her country its first gold medal of the Games.
There was disappointment in the Olympic Stadium earlier Thursday for those hoping to see South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius, the first double amputee to compete at the Games, run in the 4 x 400-meter relay.
The baton never reached the hands of the man nicknamed the Blade Runner, for the artificial blades on which he runs, after the second South African runner, Ofentse Mogawane, fell before he could hand it over.
However, in a dramatic turn of events, the South African team was reinstated on appeal and will contest the final Friday, after officials accepted that Mogawane had fallen as a result of obstruction by a Kenyan runner.
Pistorius was delighted by the turnaround in his team’s fortunes, the official Olympic website reported.
“It’s been absolutely phenomenal, just stepping out there again today on the track in front of a crowd like this has been awesome. This whole experience has just been mind-blowing for me,” he is quoted as saying.
And the relay final won’t be the last time for the crowds to see Pistorius in action, as he’s set to return in the Paralympic Games later this summer to defend his 100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter titles.
Trinidad and Tobago won the first 4 x 400-meter relay heat, with Great Britain and Cuba in second and third.
Team USA, the defending champions, and Russia also qualified for the final, as did the tiny Caribbean nation of the Bahamas.
After a long day Wednesday, the hard-working decathletes were also back in the Olympic Stadium early Thursday for the 110-meter hurdles and discus.
After the first day of the competition, U.S. world record holder Ashton Eaton had a nice 220-point lead over his countryman Trey Hardee but has seen the latter chip away at that margin Thursday.
With three decathlon events still to go — pole vault, javelin and the 1,500-meter race — it looks like the American duo will battle it out to the end.
Hopes were high for Team GB’s Keri-Anne Payne, the 10-kilometer open water world champion and Beijing silver medalist, to repeat her success in the Serpentine lake in Hyde Park.
After a hard-fought two-hour race Payne could only manage fourth, though, with gold going to Hungary’s Eva Risztov and silver to America’s Hayley Anderson.
Thousands of spectators gathered in the sunshine on the banks of the lake, more usually home to swans and geese, to watch the grueling swimming marathon.
Over at Greenwich Park, by the River Thames, Great Britain are hoping to take home a medal from the individual dressage final, after winning the team dressage gold for the first time Tuesday.
Meanwhile, America’s female soccer dynamos are looking to take gold against Japan in the final of the women’s football at Wembley Stadium, after winning through the semifinals with a thrilling extra-time victory over Canada.
A win for Team USA would be revenge for their heartbreaking defeat by Japan last year in the World Cup final.
The Americans, twice World Cup champs and three times winners of the Olympics, have several factors going for them in their revenge bid. No World Cup champion has ever won the Olympics the next year. And since 1995, each time a team has knocked the United States out of World Cup, they’ve met in the Olympics a year later. The United States has won every time, twice in the final.
Canada and France are playing for the bronze in the women’s football.
The U.S. women’s volleyball and basketball teams also play in semifinals Thursday.
Beach volleyball queens Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings made it three Olympic golds in a row Wednesday, as they pushed their American rivals April Ross and Jennifer Kessy into silver position.
Also Wednesday, LeBron James became the first men’s basketball player to have a triple double in an Olympics game. He scored 11 points, had 14 rebounds and 11 assists to lead the U.S. into the men’s semifinals against Argentina.
Germany took two golds in a busy morning on the waters of Eton Dorney lake Thursday.
One went to Franziska Weber and Tina Dietze, who clinched top spot in the women’s kayak double (K2), with Hungary in silver and Poland taking bronze.
The other was won by German duo Kurt Kuschela and Peter Kretschmer, who triumphed in the men’s kayak double (K2) 1,000-meter canoe sprint final.
After a slow start, Australia is now climbing the medal table. Their latest victory came courtesy of Tate Smith, Dave Smith, Murray Stewart, and Jacob Clear, who took gold in the men’s kayak four (K4) 1,000-meter canoe sprint.
Danuta Kozak took gold for Hungary in the women’s kayak single (K1) 500-meter final.