Decathlete Bryan Clay was well on his way to becoming the "world's greatest athlete" at the Olympics on Friday.
After botching both sprint relay heats on Thursday, it could be the only gold the Americans can realistically hope for on Friday in an ever more disappointing Olympic track and field competition for them at the Bird's Nest.
Instead, 100- and 200-meter champion Usain Bolt, with world records in both, is poised to clinch his golden triple. And considering the strength of the Jamaican squad, he could add a third world record in the 4x100 relay.
If the women do the same in their relay, Jamaica would complete an Olympic sprint sweep _ the first since the United States did so in 1984 when East Germany and the Soviet Union boycotted the games.
Jamaica and Russia share the gold medal honors with five going into Friday's evening session, followed by the United States with four. The way Clay is performing, it is almost a lock that will become five.
The former world champion set an Olympic best for decathletes in the discus Friday to widen his lead in the 10-event competition.
With three disciplines remaining, Clay had 6,455 points, 283 ahead of his nearest competitor, Oleksiy Kasyanov of Ukraine, who had 6,172. Andrei Krauchanka of Belarus was third with 6,139 points.
Clay was supposed to have a tough battle with Roman Sebrle, but the Czech has been disappointing.
The reigning world and Olympic champion seemingly was out of gold medal contention with 5,974 points, 481 behind Clay.
Clay, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist and 2005 world champion, won his heat in the 110-meter hurdles in 13.93 seconds _ second in the rankings _ and has led the decathlon since posting the best times or marks in the 100 and long jump, the first two disciplines.
Perhaps his decisive performance came in the discus Friday. His first attempt was a good one. As soon as it left his hands, he raised both arms in triumph as he watched his first and best throw land at 53.79 meters.
Under a clear sky and increasingly hot sun with morning temperatures approaching 30 degrees C (85 degrees F), Alex Schwazer of Italy won the longest event on the program, the 50-kilometer walk.
With a break 10 kilometers from the finish, he pulled away from the leading group and held on to beat Jared Tallent of Australia, who won bronze in the 20K.
Denis Nizhegorodov of Russia, the silver medalist from the Athens Games and world record holder, took bronze.
Schwazer finished in 3 hours, 37, minutes, 9 seconds, slicing 1:20 off the 20-year-old Olympic record.
Schwazer was third at the last two world championships when he blamed bad tactics for missing gold.
This time, he was part of a leading group of four in the initial breakaway and then took off on a solo burst. Confident enough, he raised a finger for No. 1 to the Italian fans lining the course with less than three kilometers to go.
Once he crossed the finish line, he was no longer going to keep at least one foot on the ground, as is mandatory in the walk. Instead he was jumping up and down with an Italian flag in his arms by the time Tallent joined him.
The result marked the coming of a new generation of walkers after Polish great Robert Korzeniowski had won the last three Olympics before retiring.