The mouth-watering sprint duel between Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay will headline the World Athletics Championships, offering up what should be one of the most eagerly awaited events ever.
Bolt took the Beijing Olympics by storm last summer, the towering, laid-back Jamaican winning the sprint double gold and also claiming gold as part of Jamaica's 4x100m relay team, all won - amazingly - in world record times.
He has continued his impressive form into this season, but the year's best marks in both the 100 and 200m races (9.77 and 19.58 respectively) have been set by archrival Gay, the American who endured a miserable Olympics after rushing back from a debilitating hamstring injury.
Gay is also the runner with the world credentials, having emulated Bolt's triple gold feat at the last World Championships in Osaka two years ago.
The American has insisted he could give Bolt a run for his money despite his ongoing problems with a groin injury.
"Right now I'm running on faith and that's more dangerous than anything. When I hear the gun and just run, it's just dangerous," said Gay.
His fitness problems have cast a cloud over his season in recent times but Gay said: "I'm feeling okay. I've been trying to keep under the radar, trying to get through this groin situation I have but I should be okay.
"I feel like I haven't proved myself yet until I break the world record. I believe that's what it's all about. Asafa Powell's done it before, he has the potential to do it again, but Usain Bolt right now is the man."
Bolt and Gay have, to the delight of their agents ahead of a showcase competition, avoided each other so far this season, but the Jamaican who claims to have been performing only at 85 percent of his capability has displayed levels of confidence expected of sprinters.
"Personally, no disrespect to Tyson, but that (breaking the 100m record) is going to be a hard task for him," Bolt has said of the American.
At the Osaka Worlds in 2007, Gay spearheaded the US team to the top of the overall table, matching a meet record with 14 titles.
Kenya came second with five, thanks to their incomparable distance runners, with Russia in third.
On the track, that US team again looks strong, with the likes of 400m specialists Jeremy Wariner, Lashawn Merritt and Sanya Richards all offering healthy gold medal options.
Wariner, Allyson Felix, Kerron Clement, Michelle Perry, Reese Hoffa, Brad Walker and Bernard Lagat will all defend world titles from two years ago.
Despite being hit by a doping ban to five of their sprinters, the Jamaican team will also be backing themselves to continue their fine form in Beijing here.
In the field, pole-vault queen Yelena Isinbayeva will be seeking to overcome a minor blip of finishing second in the recent London Grand Prix to continue her domination.
The Russian, who has won two Olympic and two world crowns, was adamant that she would use the loss to Poland's Anna Rogowska to her advantage.
"I'm happy I lost because I feel more motivated and will concentrate more on Berlin now," the 27-year-old said.
"I am still very confident. I know I can build a big gap ahead of the field like before."
Ethiopian middle-distance duo Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba will be out to build on their Olympic form in both the 5000m and 10,000m, when they won an unprecendented double gold to boost their country up to 18th in the overall medals table.
Dibaba will likely be up against compatriot Meseret Defar, the Athens Olympic champion who timed her run to perfection to win her first 5000m title in Osaka.
(AFP via China Daily August 14, 2009)