It is human nature to doubt others. Be it their abilities, their bravery or their bounce-back-ability, but what if that human is the greatest sprinter of all time? Surely only the foolish would choose to count out Usain Bolt in any race.
Nonetheless, in the days leading up to yesterday’s Anniversary Games the media and some fans couldn’t help but be sceptical of his chances not only on the night but for the rest of the season.
Some had suggested that Bolt’s best days may have been behind him, pointing to his season’s best time of 10.12 seconds, that placed him as only the 62nd fastest sprinter in the world, as the reason. Ignoring the facts that he had only raced once over the distance this year in an exhibition event.
Others pointed to the form of Justin Gatlin and claimed he was now the one to beat in Beijing, that Bolt was no longer sprinting’s number one.
Sure they had the facts to back up their case for Gatlin, but surely not the naivety to write-off the Jamaican.
How silly they must now feel.
In the space of two 9.87 second victories, in the pouring rain they had been muted, maybe not permanently but at least for the time being. With his star value back in the peripheral vision of the world.
Although they were not quite vintage performances, both races gave an illustration of why he has been so successful. First in the heats, the best of his two races, he got out of the blocks well before cruising past his main rival Mike Rodgers by the 60 metre marks, winning in a margin that even gave him the opportunity to ease up on the line. Taking the whole of the press box by surprise at his winning time.
Then in the final he was made to work much harder for the win, as much due to his poor execution as it was because of Rodgers performing well. After getting one of his trademark awful starts, so severe that he sat near last at 40 metres, Bolt gradually came to the fore, but even in the final metres the result remained uncertain. Yet almost as if he sensed the doubt begin fill the stadium, he surged past Rodgers and Kemar Bailey-Cole to snatch the win and delight his fans. Crossing the line with a frown on his face and undoubted relief.
Of course as his second race showed, Bolt is far from perfect just yet, but that’s what should worry Gatlin the most. With a little bit of work on that start he will be dropping down to the 9.7 with ease and as he showed, if he’s in contention with 20 metres to go he is not going to lose out to anyone. As for his two 9.87s, they are even more impressive given that time wasn’t his focus for the evening.
“I wasn’t looking for a specific time but I knew I could have gone faster if I had got the start I wanted. The key thing coming into this race was trying to get everything right on the track. The heats were perfect for me but the finals were shitty so it’s just one of those things.” he said post-race.
So what about his placing within the world of sprinting, had he feared that his place at the top was gone? Like heck had he.
“I was never number two, I’m still number one, so until that day comes I’m still number one, I want to stay there until I retire, that’s the plan.”
While the anticipation will remain around their rivalry in the weeks leading up to Beijing, as his answer indicates he will merely be focusing on himself. Meaning that once again we could see something special from the superstar Jamaican: “Anything is possible in Beijing, it’s all about the effort you put in. I’ve been running fast in training, it easier in training because you’re under no pressure and you can execute well. My coach has been happy with my technique and my work but it’s all about getting race-ready now.”
In CJ Ujah Great Britain have an athlete who is starting to prove that he can be a genuine world championship contender. In London, he produced back to back SB performances and was only .09 behind Bolt in the final. He clearly has the big race mentality and showed it on his first trip to the Olympic stadium.
Sure he might not have the experience of his rivals, but if he gets into the final in Beijing then he has an opportunity to run anyone to the line. He is a very different athlete to the one who ran 9.96 in 2014. Not only is he running fast but he is doing it consistently. With the demons of that false start at the European indoors now vanished, there are no signs of that effecting or nerves effecting him anymore, especially since winning the British title.
“I wasn’t nervous when I was on the start line the nerves were gone, I was kind of shocked, I’m normally nervous, British trials I was more nervous but it’s because I’m running with a lot more freedom” he said after the race.
“My coach just said lets get in the mix next year, obviously I’ve been running on the circuit against these guys, and this year was just to try and pull out the performances, I knew I could pull out the performances.” he added.
Another British sprinter to illustrate his ability on the day was James Dasaolu. A world championship finalist in 2013.
Although he was slightly disappointing in the final his 10.12 SB in the heats showed that he is continuing to sharpen up with more surely to come.
He says he is aiming to make a second consecutive final in China, which he is definitely capable of, although he will have to get closer to 10 seconds if he is to do so.
Should he and Ujah make it there, then that would be a massive achievement for Team GB especially, with 9.97 man Adam Gemili still to come back.
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