Wake-up call for Bolt
BECAUSE?of?the superstar he is, Usain Bolt’s whipping was more a point of discussion than Yohan Blake’s winning the 100 metres in grand fashion at the Jamaica Olympic Trials last Friday night.
You had to be fortunate, as I was, to be in the Jamaica National Stadium to understand the significance of Bolt’s defeat.
The melancholic response from the shocked thousands detracted from what should have been full rather than muted celebrations for Blake who ran the race of his life and possibly installed himself as the man to beat in London’s blue riband event.
If there was a moment in his career when Bolt was stripped bare of his invincibility it was in that final. Yes, he has been beaten before but this time I felt he was humbled.
The respective times clocked by the speed demons tell the true story. Blake ran a personal and year’s best of 9.75 seconds and Bolt was some distance back at 9.86 seconds. The enigmatic Asafa Powell was a bridesmaid once more in crunch time.
The kind of statement Blake made should not be brushed aside. It could be that he chose the Olympic Trials to move further away from living in the shadow of a man who is also his training partner.
Bolt’s stellar presence still means that whenever Blake outshines him, people wonder if he [Blake] has truly come of age or whether it was a one-off as was the case when Bolt false-started at last year’s World Championships.
Bolt definitely looked out of sorts as his starting has become even more apprehensive since his disqualification at the World Championships. It seems to be a psychological barrier which could find him wanting again in London. Based on Blake’s performance, he may have won on the night under any conditions.
The good news for Bolt is that his top end speed is still phenomenal and if he can fight back from what would be dire straits for normal mortals to still make his presence felt, it does not bode well for his rivals when he reorganizes his race to the levels of the last Olympics and 2009 World Championships when he was breaking records at will.
In fact, one of the main points in the aftermath of the 100 metres defeat was that Bolt needs to reorganize his life, not only his running. Of course, this may never have been highlighted if he had won but he didn’t and it was on the front burner.
Many claimed that he was clubbing too much; he wasn’t focusing enough on training; he was paying much more attention to endorsement deals and public relations ventures than to the art that has made him great.
Others said they were glad he was beaten because it should serve as a wake-up call before the Olympics. Maybe they are right because he was visibly shaken and one would expect him to take stock and bounce back with a vengeance in London.
If Blake succeeded in pulling the tail of the lion, it sets the stage for more intense competition between the Jamaicans and the Americans who would have been following proceedings in Kingston with an eager eye.
Trinidadian Keston Bledman might also play a big part in deciding who is the world’s fastest man but it is Blake who has thrown down the gauntlet to the rest of the world.
• Andi Thornhill is an experienced award-winning freelance sports journalist.