Berlin Diary 09, Day 1, Session 1: Bolt & Gay Shake out Cobwebs, by Bob Ramsak, IAAF, Notes by Larry Eder

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Usain Bolt, Beijing 2008, photo by PhotoRun.net.

Quick, look at these two sprinters. Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay. Two athletes near the top of their form. The goal for them, this morning was to get out of the rounds in okay form, make sure all was working right and focus on the next round. The second round tonight should be interesting, and should give us an indication of where both are in terms of racing fitness.

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Tyson Gay, US champs, June 2009, photo by PhotoRun.net.

Berlin, Germany - The battle for the world’s fastest man got off without a hitch this morning at Olympic Stadium and as expected, the chief protagonists of this weekend’s showdown, scheduled as the evening-capping event on Sunday, took centre stage.

In his first race since his 9.91 victory in London on 24 July, World record holder Usain Bolt knocked the rust out with a 10.20 stroll in the ninth of the first round’s heats, the third fastest dash of the early afternoon’s 12 heats.

The Jamaican’s main rival, defending champion Tyson Gay of the USA, produced the fastest run of the opening round, clocking 10.16 in Heat 11, well ahead of 2003 champion Kim Collins (10.28) who also advanced with ease.

“It was a little sloppy,” said Gay, whose last outing was a windy 9.79 victory in Stockholm late last month. He didn’t complain about his nagging groin pain which sidelined him from a relay outing last week, but did say it was “a little sore."

While the athletics' world's focus is clearly on the pair, 82 other men did line up in the opening round, with American Darvis Patton, the winner of Heat 2 in 10.26 quipping, "This race has been dubbed as being all about two men. But we are all here for a reason."

Those reasons were well enough displayed, with no surprises emerging from the first round heats. But former World record holder Asafa Powell nearly wound up on the losing end of one in Heat three. Easing up considerably over the final strides, he finished third in 10.28 – the heat victor was Frenchman Martial Mbandjock in 10.28 - to automatically move on, but was nearly caught by unheralded Moroccan Assiz Ouhadi who was a scant 0.02 behind. Powell, the defending bronze medallist, will quite likely pay a little better attention in this evening’s quarter-finals.

Other heat winners included Medal favourite Dan Bailey (10.26) of Antigua; Olympic silver medallist Richard Thompson (10.26) of Trinidad; American champion Michael Rodgers (10.25); Briton Dwain Chambers (10.18); Jamaican Michael Frater (10.30) the 2005 silver medallist; French teenager Christophe Lemaître (10.23); Qatari Samuel Francis (10.21); and Andrew Hinds (10.30) of Barbados.

While he hasn't shown strong form this year, the early departure of reigning silver medallist Derrick Atkins was nonetheless unexpected. Never in the hunt, the Bahamian was a well-beaten fifth in Heat three, clocking 10.44. The only other noteworthy casualty of the first round was Slovenia’s Matic Osovnikar, the reigning European bronze medallist and a finalist in Osaka two years ago.

Check out the coverage at http://www.iaaf.org

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