Usain Bolt an Olympic doubt after hamstring tear

Sprinter suffered grade-one tear during Jamaica trials

Usain Bolt (second from left) in action during the Jamaican Olympic trials in Kingston. Photograph: Gilbert Bellamy/Reuters

Usain Bolt (second from left) in action during the Jamaican Olympic trials in Kingston. Photograph: Gilbert Bellamy/Reuters

 

Even as the so-called Olympic headline acts come and go there are none bigger than Usain Bolt, only now his appearance in Rio has come under clear and present danger.

It’s nothing to do with the Zika virus, but instead a hamstring tear which forced him to withdraw from the Jamaican Olympic trials in Kingston on Friday night. Bolt now requires an approved medical exemption in order to be selected for Rio, and most likely in the 100 metres only.

For the two-time defending Olympic champion over both the 100m and 200m, everything had been going to plan up until last night’s 100m final. Bolt won his heat on Thursday, clocking 10.15 seconds, and looked to be in a class of his own as he sought one of the three automatic qualifying slots for Jamaica, which, like the US Olympic teams, are decided at their trials.

But he never made the starting line for that 100m final, and is now facing a very worrying race against time to regain race fitness ahead of the Olympics, now just a month away, starting on August 5th.

In a statement posted on social media, Bolt revealed that he had been diagnosed with a “grade-one hamstring tear” by a team doctor, and that he had pulled out of the remainder of the Jamaican national championships on more precautionary grounds. “I will seek treatment immediately and hope to show fitness at the London Anniversary Games on July 22nd, to earn selection for the Olympic Games in Rio.”

Bolt also posted a photo himself on Twitter, lying on a treatment table with electrical pads on his left hamstring, saying: “Starting the recovery process right away.”

At 29, and a few weeks shy of 30, Bolt had already indicated that Rio would be his last Olympics, where he hopes to become the most decorated sprinter in history, having already won six gold medals, across the 100 meters, 200 meters, and 4 x 100 metres relay.

Bolt has run 9.88 seconds for the 100m this season (the second-fastest time in the world this year), and also has qualifying standard in the 200m, having won both sprint titles at the World Championships in Beijing.

Now, however, he’s relying on the Jamaican Federation to select him for Rio despite missing the trails in the both events. Although according to their selection policy, “athletes who are ranked/listed in the top three in the world for their event who are ill or injured at the time of the National Championships and are granted an exemption from competing at the Championships may still be considered for selection provided that they are able to prove their world ranking form prior to the final submission of the entries for the competition”.

Bolt’s situation may be helped by the fact the Jamaican 100m squad is not as deep as it was in 2012. His agent, Irishman Ricky Simms, also confirmed that “the Jamaican selectors have the flexibility to select any athlete who misses the trials due to medical reasons.”

It’s going to make for an anxious few weeks for Bolt, and whether or not he can prove his fitness before Rio. He’s listed to run the 200m at that London Diamond League meeting on July 22nd, although it’s possible he may drop down to the 100m, rather than risk in the injury in the more taxing 200m. It’s possible too he will only run the 100m in Rio.

Still, he’s had problems like this before, crashing his BMW in early 2009, and returning later that summer to set his world records over 100m (9.58 seconds) and 200 (19.19 seconds) at the World Championships in Berlin.

In 2012, Yohan Blake also beat Bolt at the Jamaican Olympic trials, only for Bolt to reverse that result in London, and even last summer he was troubled with a back injury all season, and still came out to beat Justin Gatlin of the US in the big showdown in Beijing.

The question now is: will Bolt be even there for the big showdown in Rio?

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