BEIJING: Usain Bolt will have the chance to go for a golden treble at the world championships in Beijing after his teammates advanced into the finals of the 4x100m relay on Saturday.
A Jamaican quartet comprising Nesta Carter, Asafa Powell, Rasheed Dwyer and Nickel Ashmeade clocked a season’s best of 37.41 seconds the 10th fastest time ever run to win their heat ahead of France and China, whose 37.92 was an Asian record.
It means Bolt, who has already beaten American rival Justin Gatlin to the 100 and 200m titles, will have the opportunity to return home with a third world gold from Beijing when he replaces one of his teammates for the final.
The US team, made up of 100m bronze and silver medallists Trayvon Bromell and Gatlin, and fellow finalists Tyson Gay and Michael Rodgers, won their heat comfortably in 37.91sec.
The last outing between Jamaica and the United States came at the World Relay Championships in the Bahamas in early June, the US team running out victors, much to Bolt’s visible annoyance.
The Jamaicans, anchored by Bolt, have won all world and Olympic sprint titles since the 2008 Beijing Games, and a win here would further cement his legendary track status.
Gatlin, however, said he had confidence in his teammates. “We are hungry, we want to get out here and show that we can do it,” he said.
“We want to get the stick around, we want to do our job.”
Having set a startling European record in winning the women’s 200m on Friday, Dafne Schippers was back on the track to run the second leg of the Dutch team’s 4x100m relay heat.
The Dutch finished third in their heat behind the Americans and Trinidad and Tobago, leaving Schippers with a way in for a third medal, the 23-year-old having also already won a silver in the 100m.
The morning’s session had one medal event, Slovakian Matej Toth capturing the men’s 50 kilometres walk with a crushing victory as his rivals wilted under a brutal Beijing sun.
Toth, the European silver medallist, won the iron man event in 3hr 40min 32sec to land his country’s first ever world championship gold.
The race favourite finished almost two minutes clear of Australian Jared Tallent, with Japan’s Takayuki Tani timing 3:42:55 for bronze to break Japan’s medal drought in China.
“I have to say that this 50km was maybe the easiest race of my whole life. I made history today,” said Toth.
A packed evening session on Saturday, featuring seven medal events, will be headlined by Briton Mo Farah who goes for a second gold in the men’s 5,000m, having already sealed the 10,000m title.
Elsewhere, American Ashton Eaton sat in pole position of the gruelling multi-discipline decathlon.
The world record-holder and defending champion, also reigning Olympic and two-time world indoor champion, had an overnight lead of 173 points on Canada’s Damian Warner.
Eaton, whose Canadian wife Brianne Theisen Eaton claimed silver behind Jessica Ennis-Hill in the women’s heptathlon, timed 13.69sec in the opening 110m hurdles and then managed a best of 43.34m in the discus to leave himself on 6,451 pts.
Warner sat in second on 6,320, with Germany’s Rico Freimuth third (6,266), with just the pole vault, javelin and final strength-sapping 1,500m left to compete.
Other finals include the women’s high jump and 800m, and men’s discus.