Gwen Torrence and Michael Johnson, winners in their previous races, are converging on the same distance, while decathlete Dan O'Brien is returning to an old challenge.
Torrence, who won the women's 100 meters, and Johnson, who took the men's 400, begin work today in the 200, where both have flourished before. And O'Brien, deprived of an Olympic trip four years ago, goes after one in the grueling 10-event decathlon.Atlanta's brand new Olympic track did not yield any world records in the first week of the trials, and Torrence doesn't expect that to change in the women's 200, were the mark of 21.34 seconds belongs to Florence Griffith Joyner.
"I can't imagine me running that fast," said Torrence, whose personal best for the distance is 21.72 and who won the gold in that event at Barcelona.
Johnson is concentrating on his private challenge - an unprecedented 200-400 Olympic double. He converted the first half of the double, winning the trials 400 in 43.44 seconds, the third fastest time in history.
"The pressure's still on," Johnson said. "The job is only half done. The 400 gave me a lot of confidence going after the 200."
In both distances, Johnson's opposition includes some fast company.
Butch Reynolds, who finished second to Johnson in the 400, escaped with his record of 43.29 intact. Johnson thought a bad start, a mistake he blamed on himself, saved Reynolds' record.
"I could have broken the world record if I had gone out of the blocks more aggressively," he said. "That's where the other two-tenths of a second could have come from."
In the 200, the American record-holder at 19.73 is Michael Marsh, just a hundredth of second slower than Pietro Mennea's world record.
Marsh ran a 19.88 against Johnson on the same track in last month's Grand Prix. Johnson won the race in 19.83, though, part of a 20-race winning streak at the distance. He has a 53-race streak in the 400.
Johnson said the two distances pose different demands on runners.
"The 400 is a strategic race," he said. "The 200 is a technical race. In the 400, strategy can change. In the 200, there are no decisions to be made. There's a lot less room for mistakes. I try to do things in the 200 that I don't do in the 400. A mental switch has to take place."
Besides Marsh, the 200 field includes Dennis Mitchell and Jon Drummond, who made the 100-meter team and Carl Lewis, who qualified for his fifth Olympics in the long jump, but finished last in the 100 final.
There was some question whether Lewis would go in the 200, but he set that aside on Thursday. "I feel better than I imagined I would," he said. "I'm definitely going in the 200. I'm looking forward to it. I know I can be there in the final. I have a great chance to make the team in that event."
O'Brien, the three-time world champion and world record-holder, is expected to have an easy time in the decathlon. Of course, that was also the case in the 1992 trials when a botched pole vault cost him a spot on the team.
The decathlon began today with the 100 meters, long jump, shot put, high jump and 400 meters. Also scheduled are qualifying rounds in the women's long jump and shot put and men's high jump, semifinals in both the men's and women's 1,500 meters and first rounds in both the men's and women's 110-meter hurdles. Four finals are set - the men's special Olympics long jump, the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase, the men's 5,000 meters and the women's 10,000 meters.