London set for fastest 100m ever as Bolt is beaten again and rivals smash 10-second barrier
21:00 GMT, 2 July 2012
So, Usain Bolt is not quite the ice-veined winner the world thought he was. Twice in 48 hours he has lost to his apprentice friend Yohan Blake and, suddenly, the Olympics has a race on its hands.
Paying up to 750 to watch a 100 metres procession came with magic attached. Could Bolt move back the frontiers in 9.4sec How early in the race could he launch into a celebration How much daylight would there be between him and the pursuing world
But the possibilities now are all together more intriguing. Blake, Bolt’s vanquisher in the 100m at the Jamaican trials on Friday and in the 200m on Sunday night, is suddenly the man to beat. A competition rather than a demonstration beckons us.
Second-best: Bolt (above left) is beaten by Blake (above right) again before receiving treatment
It changes the nature of the history that could be written in London’s Olympic Stadium on 100m final night, Sunday, August 5.
Yes, we could yet witness Bolt finding how to uncoil those lanky legs off the blocks – he started desperately slowly in Kingston – so he can run the times he has talked of. But more likely we will see the fastest foot race since cavemen learned to walk: eight men traversing the blue-riband distance of sprinting in under 10sec.
This year alone 17 men have managed the feat, led by Blake’s 9.75sec over the weekend. On a warm night in London, without the wind intervening, who would bet against the 2012 cast transcending the 1991 World Championship peak, when six finalists managed to beat the 10sec mark
Our own Linford Christie ran 9.92sec yet finished fourth. Whither British sprinting, whose fastest competitor this year, teenager Adam Gemili, has run 10.08sec. The fireworks that await us in London will be a foreign affair.
Jamaica, with Bolt, Blake and Asafa Powell, and America, with Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and Ryan Bailey, lead the way. Trinidad, through Keston Bledman and Richard Thompson, promise to be bit-part players in the phenomenon. Europe Christophe Lemaitre, of France, has run sub-10sec, but not this year.
Pole position: Blake has made himself the man to beat
WORLD'S FASTEST MEN
Jamaica, 25. Season’s Best: 9.76sec.
The Olympic champion and world record holder in the 100m (9.58) and 200m (19.19) is the man to beat but Blake proved he is not invincible in the Jamaican trials at the weekend.
Jamaica, 22. SB: 9.75. Bolt’s training partner and current 100m world champion. Fourth fastest in history (9.75).
USA, 30. SB: 9.8. Won Olympic gold in 2004 but was then banned for doping. Ran PB of 9.8 to win US trials.
Jamaica, 29. SB: 9.85. Third fastest man in history (9.72) and former 100m world record holder.
Trinidad, 24. SB: 9.86.
Won silver in the 4x100m in the 2008 Olympics and ran PB of 9.86 last month.
USA, 29. SB: 9.86.
Second fastest in history (9.69) but has never won an Olympic medal because of injury.
USA, 23. SB: 9.93.
Finished third in the US trials behind Gay and Gatlin. Ran a PB of 9.88 in 2010.
Trinidad, 27. SB: 9.96.
Ran a PB of 9.89 to take silver in Beijing. Qualified for London with a run of 9.96.
Over in Jamaica, Bolt was coming to terms with his fallibility. Defeat in the 200m was more of a jolt than in the 100m. He has not lost at the longer distance, which suits his 6ft 5in frame more naturally, since 2007. He holds the world record that eclipsed Michael Johnson’s unforgettable 1996 gold medal-winning time.
Bolt looked left as the finishing line approached, his face etched into a grimace. Blake ran 19.8sec, winning by 0.03sec.
Bolt embraced Blake, at 22 three years the younger, before lying on the ground to have his right hamstring stretched out, reinforcing my belief that he has not been entirely injury-free this year no matter what his control-freak retinue might have us believe.
Bolt acted cool, of course. ‘I can never be discouraged,’ he said. ‘I’m never worried until my coach gets worried, and my coach isn’t worried.’
Glen Mills, a sturdy man with a gravelly voice reminiscent of Michael Holding, is coach to Bolt and Blake. He is avuncular and not given to panic. ‘Usain has the experience and the ability and has been there before,’ he said.
‘He might be a little off but I’m sure, when the time of delivery comes around, he’ll be on top of his game.’
Jim Hines first broke the 10sec mark in 1968, in the Olympic 100m final at altitude in Mexico City. Eight athletes accomplishing the feat in one London evening would be more than compensation for Bolt spluttering. Even – well, maybe – at 750 for the privilege.