RIO DE JANEIRO >> Some things don't change much in track and field at the Olympics. Usain Bolt easily advances to the 200-meter final. Kenya wins yet another steeplechase gold medal, and Ashton Eaton leads the decathlon.
As usual, Bolt blasted away opposition in the semifinals of his favorite event, where he is seeking a third a third Olympic gold medal in a row to match his three 100 titles. This time, he will not have to deal with Justin Gatlin, so often his main challenger. The 100 silver medalist finished third in his heat and is out of the hunt.
In a game of cat and mouse, Bolt let Andre De Grasse remain on his shoulder right up to the line. But as they were laughing at each other, Bolt pushed his chest just across the line for 19.78 while De Grasse set a Canadian record of 19.80.
With temperatures reaching 36 degrees Celsius (97 degrees F) on the sunbaked track, Kenya organized a very orderly changing of the guard, with 21-year-old Conseslus Kipruto running away from two-time Olympic champion Ezekiel Kemboi to set a games record and extend the country's streak to nine straight titles in the 3,000-meter event.
Kipruto started celebrating coming into the home straight and, as he was flying over the last barrier, was looking behind to see if anyone was still coming. No one was, so he stretched out his arms and raised his fist in victory as he jogged across the line in a showboating extravaganza that would have made Usain Bolt proud.
"I watched the screen. I saw I was far from them, and nobody's going to catch me, so I celebrated early," he said.
It was his first gold medal following silvers at the last two world championships.
The excitement behind him centered on Evan Jager of the United States clinching silver ahead of four-time world champion Kemboi, who was later disqualified for stepping off the track after a water jump. At 34, Kemboi immediately indicated it was his last Olympic race, swiping his hand in a quitting gesture.
"It's my conclusion that today, this has been my last track (race) in my career," said Kemboi.
Mahiedine Mekhissi of France was later awarded the bronze medal.
Kipruto took the early lead and then settled behind Jager, surging back into the lead as the bell sounded and finishing in 8 minutes, 3.28 seconds. Jager was second in 8:04.28.
Despite Kenya's dominance in the event, Jager didn't want to over-state his best-of-the-rest status.
"It feels like silver, but I'm totally OK with silver," said Jager, the first American to medal was in the event since Brian Diemer in 1984.
Like Kenyans winning the steeplechase, the decathlon is equally predictable. But the quest to become the world's greatest athlete has recently turned into a question of whether Eaton will keep setting records.
Early Wednesday, he wasn't fastest out of the blocks, though. That honor went to Damian Warner of Canada, who beat Eaton in a 100-meter heat and set an Olympic decathlon best 10.30 seconds in the process.
Eaton immediately regained the lead with a mark of 7.94 meters in long jump, 27 centimeters more Warner. And he extended it in the shot put. After three events, he has 2,803 points and a sizable lead of 95 over Warner.
In other morning action, Caster Semenya cruised through her 800 heat, proving she has the form to live up to her role as favorite for gold.
Semenya is at the heart of a debate on hyperandrogenism, a condition where a woman has significantly higher levels of testosterone than normal. Because of it, Wednesday's performance at the Olympic Stadium was eagerly anticipated.
She easily won and didn't really push herself, saying: "Times don't matter in championships but medals. Gold medals, silver or bronze, those are targets."
In the men's 5,000, defending champion Mo Farah was just as unworried about the time in his heat. Staying upright was tougher.
The British runner was tripped in the 10,000-meter race on Saturday but still recovered to win his second Olympic gold over that distance. His bid for a second-straight long-distance double faced another scare on Wednesday.
He had a slight trip after being clipped by another runner on the last lap of the 5,000 heats as well, but was quickly back into stride and ran comfortably with the leading pack to finish third in 13:25.25. Bernard Lagat of the United States also advanced.
"I've got such a long stride ... I always get tripped up or tangled up with someone," Farah said. "But I managed to stay on my feet. It's quite nerve wracking."