Usain Bolt strikes again to leave his opponents trailing
Jamaican electrifies London crowd with a winning performance in the 100 metres
Usain Bolt of Jamaica celebrates after crossing the line first in the men’s 100m A race on day one during the Anniversary Games - IAAF Diamond League 2013 at The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park last night in London. Photo graph: Paul Gilham/Getty Images
The sight of Usain Bolt bounding away from his 100m rivals over 41 lengthening strides retains its capacity for wonder and awe. As so does his ability to mine times deep under the 10-second barrier.
Yet again in London Bolt proved too good for his opponents as he recovered from a terrible start to win in 9.85sec, beating the American Michael Rogers who ran 9.98 and his fellow Jamaican Nesta Carter who was a hundredth of a second further back in third.
“It’s just wonderful,” a breathless Bolt said. “I’m so excited. I just had a bad start. More races will get me better so it’s okay. It was a brilliant experience as always and I am just happy to be here.”
Bolt’s time was 0.22 sec off his London 2012 victory time of 9.63 sec – the second fastest 100m in history – but that is no great surprise.
A year ago Bolt was at the apex of a four-year Olympic cycle; with the men’s 100m final the supreme summit. The Anniversary Games, for all that it offered the 65,000 crowd to lather itself in reminiscence, was a minor ascent.
Before Bolt’s name was announced the crowd had been asked to flash their camera-phones at the same time. After the lights had danced around the arena Bolt did much the same on the track.
The race was loaded: every athlete in the field had run under 10 seconds. As Bolt knelt into his blocks he crossed himself, as much in superstition as in prayer. He needn’t have worried. Yet again he had enough. He usually does.
Earlier in the night, as the stadium was still filling up, Bolt was driven around the track in a cold war-era rocket ship that burped fire out of its exhaust. There was a whiff of Spinal Tap about the stunt but Bolt, clutching a Jamaican flag and wearing Ray Bans as he saluted the crowd, just about pulled it off.
And it certainly shifted the crowd’s excitement levels up a few gears. And quickly the once-familiar became familiar again as 65,000 people in the Olympic Stadium rediscovered the vague yet warming charms of an old flame. Year-old London 2012 T-shirts were resuscitated from airing cupboards. Small ‘p’ patriotism was evident in the claps and cheers for British athletes, and in Poundland Union Jack flags.
Even David Bowie’s Heroes, which became the unofficial anthem of the Games, got a hearing.
It could have been the summer of 2012 all over again. Except that the decibel levels were a little lower and the weather was behaving itself. It was 25c at trackside and the heat – combined with the ultrafast red Mondo track and a tailwind – provided a ready-made template for quick times.
By the time the men’s 200m came round halfway through the night, London’s clammy-mitten humidity had evaporated too. The Jamaican Warren Weir took advantage by running a perfect bend before storming to victory in 19.89sec, ahead of his fellow countryman Jason Young, who ran 19.99 sec in second.
Only Bolt and Tyson Gay have run the 200m quicker than Weir this year. And with Gay likely to serve a lengthy suspension following his recent positive drugs test and last year’s 200m silver medallist Yohan Blake injured, Weir is the man most likely to take the fight to Bolt at the world championships in Moscow. Afterwards he was certainly talking the talk, saying: “I am pretty pleased with 19.89. I am confident going into the World Champs that I can run my race and win.”
But as Weir soared, the British athletes stuttered. Richard Kilty finished seventh in 20.57sec, James Ellington eighth in 20.62sec and Delano Williams, who switched nationality from the Turks and Caicos Islands earlier this year and will compete for Britain at the world championships in Moscow, was last in 20.74sec.
There was more woe for the hosts in the high jump as the Olympic bronze medallist Robbie Grabarz could only manage 2.24m - 13cm below his personal best - while the promising 20-year-old Allan Smith bowed out at 2.20m. The event was won by the Ukrainian Bohdan Bondarenko, who twice attempted an audacious world record of 2.47m before settling for victory with 2.38m.