LEFT: IN-FORM SPRINTER: Keston Bledman RIGHT:THREE-TIME CHAMP: Richard Thompson

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FIERY HOT

Bledman bids for Thompson's crown

By Kwame Laurence kwame.laurence@trinidadexpress.com

The stage is set for a fiery hot NAAA Sagicor/NGC National Open Track and Field Championship men's 100 metres final, at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain, this evening.

Standing between Richard "Torpedo" Thompson and a fourth straight national 100m title is the in-form Keston Bledman. Florida-based Bledman has been on fire this season, clocking a personal best 9.89 seconds, as well as 9.93 and a wind-aided 9.85.

Thompson, on the other hand, was set back by injury earlier in the season, but seems to be regaining his form at just the right time. In his last outing, at the adidas Grand Prix Samsung Diamond League meet in New York, USA two weeks ago, the double Olympic silver medallist finished fourth in 10.09 seconds, behind Jamaica's reigning world champion Yohan Blake (9.90), Bledman (9.93) and American Mike Rodgers (9.99).

In the New York race, Bledman forced Blake to work for the win, the T&T sprinter's performance firmly establishing his credentials as an Olympic medal contender.

"Any race I go in, I have confidence," Bledman told the Express. "I always believe in myself, no matter who's in the race, (Usain) Bolt or whoever."

In addition to Bledman and Thompson, the field for the 6.45 p.m. men's 100m final could include three-time champion Marc Burns (2002, 2005, 2008), two-time champ Darrel Brown (2001, 2007), Emmanuel Callender, 2011 World Championship 200m finalist Rondel Sorrillo, and Aaron Armstrong.

While Bledman is confident of grabbing National Championship gold for the first time, he is not taking his rivals for granted.

"Everyone is home, so they'll be putting their best foot forward and trying to live up to their names. I expect the guys to come hard, and once you're in a final anything could happen. Everybody will try to do their best, so I'll try to do better."

Bledman is expecting to produce a fast clocking in today's championship race.

"Whatever it takes to win. I have a time in mind, but it's a surprise."

Twenty-five-year-old Kelly-Ann Baptiste is expected to win her sixth National Championship women's 100m title.

The 2011 World Championship bronze medallist will be challenged by Semoy Hackett, 23, and 20-year-olds Michelle-Lee Ahye and Kai Selvon.

The 400m titles will also be decided today.

Deon Lendore, 19, 2009 World Championship bronze medallist Renny Quow and Lalonde Gordon are among the contenders for men's one-lap gold.

Pilar McShine will be on show in the women's 1500m. Wayne Davis II and Mikel Thomas clash in the men's 110m hurdles. And in the women's 100m hurdles, Josanne Lucas, Aleesha Barber and Janeil Bellille will do battle.

Also on show today are Ayanna Alexander in the women's triple jump, Kyron Blaise in the men's long jump, and Annie Alexander in the women's discus.

Alexander will be back at the Crawford Stadium tomorrow for the women's shot put. The favourite in this event is seven-time champion Cleopatra Borel.

In the men's javelin, Keshorn Walcott will bid to improve on his 80.11 metres Pan American junior record. Quincy Wilson should dominate the men's discus. And Blaise, Chris Hercules, Steve Waithe and Elton Walcott will battle for the top spot in the men's triple jump.

Jehue Gordon should have no problems winning his fifth men's 400m hurdles title on the trot. In the women's one-lap hurdles, Lucas squares off against Bellille in what could well be an Olympic eliminator.

Baptiste, Hackett, Selvon and Ahye are all listed for the women's 200m. In the men's half-lap event, Sorrillo will bid for his fourth gold in five years. Jamaal James will clash with Gavyn Nero in the men's 800m. And Melissa De Leon is expected to win the women's two-lap title.

With Olympic selection at stake this weekend, the Championships will be a high-quality meet. The one disappointment is the absence of reigning 400m world champion Kirani James. The 19-year-old Grenadian was expected to represent his country in tomorrow's men's 4x400m relay. However, the Express was informed that James is not on the team.

Grenada will be represented by Rondell Bartholomew, Bralon Taplin, Josh Charles and Joel Redhead.

Action at the Crawford Stadium today starts at nine a.m. with the hammer throw events. The opening round of the women's 400m starts at ten o'clock, and will be followed by men's 400m heats and preliminary round action in the women's and men's 100m events.

The opening ceremony is scheduled for two p.m., and competition resumes at three.

Tomorrow, there will be men's 200m heats from ten a.m., while the second session starts at 2.30 p.m.

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