Steve Hooker looks to retain pole vault title

Australian Steve Hooker says he is in fantastic physical shape and mentally in the right form to retain his Olympic pole vault title on Friday.

The 30-year-old, who also won the world title in 2009 despite being injured, is not the most consistent of performers but he qualified with his one and only attempt at 5.50m to confirm his place in the 14-man final.

"It's going to be a cracking final," said Hooker, who will be hoping for no repeat of his last appearance in London when he failed to get over once at last month's Diamond League meet.

"Everybody is in it to win it. There's still a bit to do, but I'm here to see what happens. My training has been good, my body feels fantastic."

His main opposition should come from Renaud Lavillenie, the 25-year-old two-time European champion representing France's most realistic chance of rescuing a desperate athletics competition with gold.

"I feel really good," he said.

"Now the final is in front of me and I feel released as for me the trap was the qualifiers. The final will be a totally different battle."

 

Ethiopian distance running legend Tirunesh Dibaba will bid to add to her remarkable medals collection by retaining her Olympic 5,000m title to complete the Olympic double for a second time.

The 26-year-old is considered the greatest female distance runner of all-time with three Olympic titles and four world crowns -- with two apiece in each of the events -- but she will face a tough battle against Kenyan ace Vivian Cheruiyot.

Cheruiyot, 28, is the reigning 5,000 and 10,000m world champion though she won those in the absence of Dibaba who was injured.

Dibaba, who will have tough as teak team-mate Meseret Defar alongside her, has said that if Cheruiyot is to take her title she will do so after the mother of all battles.

"It is always an interesting battle with the Kenyans and taxing mentally as well as physically," said Dibaba.

"It is a healthy rivalry and is a good spectacle for the crowd. However, I feel in good shape and prepared for the task ahead and I hope to deliver gold again."

Defar has had to play second fiddle to Dibaba on several occasions and has sacrificed her own chances for the benefit of her younger team-mate.

However, she is a great runner in her own right which has seen her win the 5,000m Olympic crown in 2004 and the world title in 2007 and should Dibaba falter she could still rescue gold for Ethiopia.

"I have a good chance," she said.

"I'm in a good shape and I'm feeling fine, but there are other strong athletes in the field and I will never stop fighting for it."

Bahrain will field two finalists in the shape of Ethiopian-born runners, Tejiutu Daba and Shitaye Eshete.

Australia's Steve Hooker concentrates prior to competing in the men's pole vault qualifications at the athletics event of the London 2012 Olympic Games, on August 8. Hooker says he is in fantastic physical shape and mentally in the right form to retain his Olympic title on Friday.

Ethiopia's Tirunesh Dibaba Kenene competes in the women's 5000m heats at the athletics event during the London 2012 Olympic Games, on August 7. Dibaba will bid to add to her remarkable medals collection by retaining her 5,000m title to complete the Olympic double for a second time.

Sprinters are seen competing in the women's 4x100m relay heats at the athletics event during the London 2012 Olympic Games, on August 9. The final is taking place on Friday, with the USA team leading the qualifying times.