SINGAPORE – Britain's David Bolarinwa and Jamaica's Odane Skeen won their qualifying heats in the 100 meters at the Youth Olympics on Wednesday, setting up a final between two sprinters touted as possibly the next Usain Bolt.
Bolarinwa blew away the field in his heat, finishing in 10.62 seconds. Skeen got out slowly but surged to run 10.63 and beat Thailand's Jirapong Meenapra.
The 16-year-old Bolarinwa has the fastest time this year among 16- and 17-year-olds — a 10.39 in London this month. Skeen, a 15-year-old whose lanky style has some likening him to his compatriot Bolt, ran a 10.46 in Jamaica.
"I thought 'let me go there, go hard and see if anyone can go faster,'" Bolarinwa said. "It was a good performance overall."
Skeen was less thrilled with his race, blaming his slower time on two false starts by other competitors. But he said come Saturday's final, he would win.
Bolarinwa and Skeen will face each other for the first time. Skeen was surprised to learn Bolarinwa has posted the fastest 100 this year. Marvin Bracy of the United States ran the second fastest, but is not competing at the games.
Organizers of the first Youth Olympics have emphasized participation rather than winning, but that was lost on Bolarinwa and Skeen.
"It's a big showdown," Bolarinwa said. "He's not really a quick starter. We know that already," Bolarinwa said. "His pickup is fantastic and so is mine. If I get a good start, he'll have to take me."
Bolarinwa's coach John Powell chimed in later: "Bring it on."
Both boys seemed to relish the comparison to Bolt and their budding rivalry to that of Bolt and Tyson Gay. Told he has been compared to Bolt, Skeen just smiled and said he dreams of surpassing his idol.
"I want to be better than Bolt," said Skeen, whose goal it is to win gold at the 2012 Olympics in London.
Bolarinwa enjoyed being likened to the two sprinting greats, but wants to surpass them.
"These guys are fantastic. You look at what they have done. You want to be better than them," Bolarinwa said. "But it's good to have them in the back your mind to look up to."
Watching Skeen's heat, Powell said he saw some of Bolt in Skeen. But he was quick to point out that a lot can change with an athlete by the time they reach adulthood. He noted that Bolt, for example, started out running 200- and 400-meter before exploding on the stage in the 100.
In other events, Lithuania rower Rolandas Mascinskas upset Germany's two-time world junior champion German Felix Bach to win the junior men's single sculls gold.
In the women's single sculls, Judith Sievers of Germany beat Nataliia Kovalova of the Ukraine. Britain defeated Australia for the women's pair final to claim its second gold in two days. Slovenia edged Greece in the men's final.
In men's weightlifting, Russia's Artem Okulov took gold ahead of Thailand's Chatuphum Chinnawong. Russian lifters won another gold and a silver on Wednesday.
In the swimming events, Australia won four medals but no golds, while local favorite Rainer Ng of Singapore won the silver in the 50-meter backstroke after being edged by Trinidad and Tobago's Christian Homer.
Italy won gold after Flavio Bizzarri upset the favorite Nicholas Schafer of Australia in the 200-meter breaststroke.
In tennis, unseeded Zheng Saisai of China upset third-seeded Timea Babos of Hungary 6-4, 6-1 to set up a final against Russia's Daria Gavrilova.
China has 11 golds and 18 overall medals while Russia has 10 golds and 22 overall. Azerbaijan is third with five golds, while Italy has four.
The United States had only one gold medal by the end of the fourth day of competition, earning silver in girl's swimming, boy's wrestling and boy's fencing.
Associated Press Writer Alex Kennedy in Singapore contributed to this report.