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Dream 100m final alive as Gay, Bolt and Powell advance

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After his second successful sprint at the Olympics, Tyson Gay jumped over a barrier to avoid a waiting horde of reporters.

That said as much as Gay said himself about how his left hamstring felt Friday in his second 100-meter heat.

The defending world champion finished his quarterfinal race in 10.09 seconds, second behind NCAA champion Richard Thompson of Trinidad, to advance easily to the final 16 in track and field's glamour event.

"I feel pretty good. It felt pretty relaxed," Gay said when finally persuaded to stop just for a second to offer an update. "I just wanted to make it through."

He did, and so did world record-holder Usain Bolt and fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell, keeping alive a potential dream final matching the three men with the eight fastest times in history.

Gay was the biggest question mark of the three coming into this, his first Olympics. He hadn't raced in six weeks, when he went tumbling to the track and had to be taken off in a stretcher at the Olympic trials. He was diagnosed with a strained hamstring that he insisted was fine earlier this week.

Also still intact is the three-man American success story in the men's 1,500. Bernard Lagat, Leo Manzano and U.S. team flagbearer Lopez Lomong all made it out of their first races.

Lagat, a double gold medal contender hoping to add to the silver and bronze he won for Kenya in the last two Olympics, showed his trademark kick, chasing from 11th to fourth in the final lap of his race.

Lomong, a "Lost Boy" refugee from Sudan, got the fifth and final qualifying spot in his race.

Manzano, at 5-foot-5 and 125 pounds among the smallest in his race, got into a nasty bump-and-push match with Deresse Mekonnen of Ethiopia and finished sixth. That was out of the automatic qualifying -- but his time of 3 minutes, 36.67 seconds earned him a wild-card spot in Sunday's semis.

The first medals of the 10-day track meet at the Bird's Nest were to be awarded later Friday in the men's shot put, where Americans Reese Hoffa, Adam Nelson and Christian Cantwell eyed a medals sweep.

In the 100, Bolt had the fastest time of the second round at 9.92 seconds -- the fastest ever run in China -- and he made it look easy.

"I just ran the first 50 meters, then I looked around to make sure I was safe and I shut it off," he said.

Even before he slows down, he looks as if he's loping down the track, unfurling his 6-5 frame out of the starting blocks, then taking off -- a unique sight in an event supposedly not made for tall men.

"He's a phenomenal athlete," said Darvis Patton, who made it through along with another American, Walter Dix.

Nobody was ceding the race to Bolt, Powell or Gay.

"I know I'm going to win for sure," said Churandy Martina of Netherlands Antilles after winning the first heat with his first official time under 10 seconds -- at 9.99, just one of three men to break 10 seconds Friday. "That's why I'm here. If not, I would've stayed home and watched it on TV."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-08-15-08 0918EDT