London 2012: Day Three preview

Take a look at all the action coming up on the third day of the London 2012 Olympics.

Take a look at all the action coming up on the third day of the London 2012 Olympics.


Leisel and Leiston take on Soni

As world champion and world record holder in the 100m breaststroke, Leisel Jones went into Beijing four years ago as the hottest of favourites for the gold medal.

The expectations on her were balanced by the fact that she had never won an individual gold medal in two Olympic Games prior to Beijing.

In the end, Jones did break her duck, beating American swimmer Rebecca Soni and Austria’s Mirna Jukic for the Olympic title.

Since then, however, the pendulum has swung clearly in favour of the American. Soni blitzed Jones in the 200 metre breaststroke in Beijing, and since then has largely had the wood over the Australian.

At the Australian relay camp leading into this year’s Olympics, Jones said that she was looking forward to being the “hunter, not the hunted” in London. But the task facing her still remains difficult, to say the least.

On the rankings the biggest threat to Soni is from her own team-mate, Breeja Larson, whose time at the US Olympic Trials was just 0.1 of a second outside Soni’s.

Japan's Satomi Suzuki is next fastest, nearly a second back from Soni, while the best-placed Australian is not Jones, but Leiston Pickett, the 20-year-old Queenslander.

If Jones is to have a chance of defending her title, she needs to make up close to a second and a half on her time from the Olympic trials in Adelaide – that’s not impossible, but at this stage there's a much greater chance of hearing The Star-Spangled Banner at the victory ceremony than Advance Australia Fair.

Meanwhile, Emily Seebohm will be the heavy favourite to take gold in the women's 100m backstroke final.

She will start in the middle lane after recording the fastest semi time of 58.39 seconds.

Seebohm enjoyed a commanding lead early in her semi-final and came close to challenging world-record time before finishing comfortably in front of China's Zhao Jing and Russia's Anastasia Zueva.

Fellow Australian Belinda Hocking also snuck in to the final in seventh place overall with a time of 59.79 seconds.


Tough ask for Fraser-Holmes

This event could have been round two in the Michael Phelps - Ryan Lochte battle, but instead it seems likely to be the confirmation of Lochte's crowning as the new king of the pool.

Lochte, who vowed never to come second again after playing second fiddle to the Phelps juggernaut, has come back exhibiting two elements of the Olympic motto.

On the basis of night one at the Aquatic Centre, he is clearly stronger and faster than he was four years ago.

And, of course, if his triumph in the 400 metres individual medley does prove to be a springboard to a multiple gold medal haul in the pool, then the 27-year-old will definitely be higher in terms of his ranking as an all-time Olympic swimmer.

The four-lap freestyle event will not be easy for the American, however.

Yannick Agnel stopped the clock at 1 minute 44.42 seconds at the French championships in March - a time more than a second faster than either Lochte or Phelps have achieved in 2012.

Lochte went inside his season's best time in the 400 IM by nearly two seconds in the final, however, so if he can maintain that level of improvement, Agnel will be under threat.

Phelps will not compete in this event, with Lochte's American competition coming from Ricky Berens, who was part of the United States' gold medal-winning 4x200 metre freestyle relay team in Beijing.

Kosuke Yagino from Japan, who came third in the 400 IM final, will challenge for the medals.

Flying the Australian flag will be Thomas Fraser-Holmes and Kenrick Monk. Monk will have extra incentive to after his fateful Facebook posting of him in a gun shop with Nick D'Arcy was punished by the AOC, who decreed the pair would be sent home following their events.

Both men will struggle to challenge the favourites in this event. Fraser-Holmes' seasons-best is 2.46 seconds outside Agnel's, while Monk's best is 2.74 seconds shy of the Frenchman.


Golden chance

As a sport, sailing fails to get the same media and public attention as swimming at the Olympics for Australia. In recent times, however, it has been a significant contributor to Australia's gold medal tally at the Games.

Australia won two gold medals in Beijing thanks to Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell in the women's 470 class, and Malcolm Page and Mathew Belcher in the men's 470 class.

While both those teams will be attempting to defend their titles in London, there are others who have strong chances to make the podium or even win a gold medal, and the 49er class is one area where Australia has an opportunity, with the pairing of Iain Jensen and Nathan Outteridge.

Outteridge has been at the top of the sport for a long time. He has won three of the last four world championships, one with Ben Austin - whom he partnered to fifth in this event in Beijing - and two with Iain Jensen, who will be the other man in the boat in London.


Not only are Outteridge and Jensen the reigning world champions, but they also lead the World Cup standings leading into the Games and have won last year's Olympic test event and this year's Sail for Gold regatta on the Olympic course at Weymouth.

While they are favourites for the gold medal, they will have a number of crews breathing down their neck.

The likes of New Zealand pair Peter Burling and Blaire Tuke, Denmark's Allan Norregaard and Peter Lang, Germany's Tobias Schadewaldt and Hannes Baumann and France's Manu Dyen and Stephane Christidis will all fancy their chances of toppling the Australians to win the title.

The prospect of British "summer" weather could cause all manner of disruption to the schedule, and organising committee head Sebastian Coe has already spoken of the contingency plans for extra days of competition if needed.

But the real issue is not the rain, but what the wind is doing off Weymouth for the duration of the regatta. Everything is possible, between howling gales and a becalmed fleet.


Putting the pressure on

The top-ranked Kookaburras kick off their group stage campaign against South Africa and will hope to put the pressure on early as they build on their gold-medal favouritism.

Jamie Dwyer is the shining hope for the men's team, who will look to dictate play against a side 11 places below them in the world rankings.

The day's other Group A fixture sees Spain take on Pakistan.


Hewitt the last hope

Lleyton Hewitt is a man known to excel under pressure.

There will be a lot of that on the tennis stalwart, who is the last hope for a winless Australia.

Bernard Tomic was eliminated on Monday morning by 15th seed Kei Nishikori, going down 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-4) to the Japanese star.

That followed the day-one losses of Sam Stosur in the women's singles and doubles pairing Jarmila Gajdosova and Anastasia Rodionova.

Hewitt has an easier task on paper against Ukraine's world-number-94 Sergiy Stakhovsky, but given his bad run with injuries in recent years, Australian fans will have all fingers and toes crossed.


Is China's run over?

There is a simple question to be answered in the Olympic men’s team gymnastics competition in London

The question is: how much of what happened four years ago in Beijing was the famous home-town bounce, and how much was a simple reflection of Chinese dominance.

If home-town support was a major contributing factor to the Chinese performance, then there would be hope for other countries. If it was the latter, then London could be another coronation of a technically superior team.

In Beijing, China’s men’s team contained the gold medallists in the floor exercise, parallel bars, horizontal bars, rings and pommel horse – in other words, the best in every single discipline up for competition in the team event.

Only two of that winning team – rings champion Chen Yibing and floor exercise champion Zou Kai - will return in London, and Yibing has had an injury scare with what is being described as a “minor” knee injury in training two weeks out from the Games.

There was also a school of thought that this year’s Chinese team has individual stars but is short of all-rounders who can get strong scores in multiple disciplines.

The critics seemed to have been proven right after the qualifying competition on day one, when the Chinese made it into the final but only in sixth place, behind the United States, Russia, hosts Great Britain, Germany and Japan.

Thankfully for the Chinese, scores in qualifying do not count towards the final, so they have a second chance to maintain their imposing international record, winning the last five world titles in addition to the gold medal in Beijing. 

What those results do show, however, is that the champions are vulnerable, and gives all other nations hope that they can win the gold.

One person to watch out for in the final is Japanese three-time men’s individual all-around world champion Kohei Uchimura, who is considered the finest men's gymnast of his generation, and one of the greatest of all time.