With only one Russian in Rio, U.S. eyes bumper medals haul
By Jack Stubbs
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The United States is expected to run away with the athletics competition in Rio, taking podium spots often the preserve of Russians such as double pole vault gold medalist Yelena Isinbayeva and 110m hurdles world champion Sergei Shubenkov.
Russia has taken second place on the athletics medals table at the last three Olympics and, as with the Soviet Union before it, has long been the United States' main challenger in track and field.
But with Russia's athletics squad all but entirely excluded from the Rio Games following revelations of state-backed doping in the sport, the door is open for Team USA to build on a table-topping haul of 28 medals at London 2012.
Jamaica, with its powerhouse of record-breaking sprinters, could also place second on the competition medal table for the first time, leaving Kenya, Ethiopia and Germany to battle it out for third place.
U.S. athletes have already been feeling the benefits of Russia-free competition in the build up to Rio, raking in 23 medals at the World Indoor Championships in March. Their nearest competitor, Ethiopia, won five.
The IAAF's Doping Review Board turned down applications from 67 Russians to compete internationally as "neutral" individuals, following a blanket ban on the country's track-and-field athletes for systematic doping.
Long jumper Darya Klishina was the only one approved for Rio, having proved she was not involved in the system and subject to drug tests outside the country.
Isinbayeva came third at London 2012, with Jenn Suhr of the United States claiming the gold, but as the pole vault world-record holder and champion in Beijing and Athens, she would have been a serious challenger in Rio. Continued...