Sunday 26 March 2017

Bolt serves up flash of casual brilliance

Usain Bolt signalled that reports of his vulnerability might be exaggerated when he stormed to the quickest time in the first round of the 100m heats at the World Championships yesterday.

The double world and Olympic sprint champion served up by far the most dominant victory in a time of 10.10 seconds while clearly easing up over the last 10 metres.

After a season less dominant than the previous three, some former champions and absent rivals have been suggesting that Bolt might actually be beatable in the blue-riband sprint in Daegu.

The world record holder has admitted he is not in "tip-top" condition but if that has dented his confidence, Bolt was not showing it as he gave a vintage display of finger shooting and hair preening before the start.

Getting out of his blocks in a slick 0.153 seconds, the Jamaican was well clear of the field halfway down Daegu's blue track and gently put on the brakes as he approached the finish line.

"I feel great," the 25-year-old said. "My goal is to go out there and execute. I came out and I did what I wanted to. I got my great start and I'm happy with that."

Bolt brushed aside talk of his vulnerability. "They are going to always say whatever they want. I am focused on what I want, my focus is to go out there and win and show the world I am still the best."

Bolt's quest to retain the title he won in a world record time two years ago in Berlin has been eased by the absence through injury of his most likely challengers, American Tyson Gay and fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell.

Ireland's Jason Smyth finished fifth in his heat in a time of 10.57. The Derryman, who trains in America with Tyson Gay, was well outside his personal best of 10.22, which he ran in Florida in May.

"I was coming up against the best athletes in the world but I would have expected to run faster than that," said Smyth. "But for me, coming to these championships is about seeing what it's like to compete with the big boys."

Bolt's 21-year-old training partner Yohan Blake, tipped by former world record holder Maurice Greene as the man who could take the title, ran the second fastest time to win his heat in 10.12.

Irish 400m runner Joanne Cuddihy finished third in her heat to secure a spot in today's semi-final. The Kilkenny woman ran a season's best of 51.82 improving on the 52.15 which she ran at the National Championships earlier this month. Her time yesterday was her fastest in four years. In 2007 Cuddihy also reached the semi-final at the World Championships. "I really enjoyed that, it was one of my most exciting races," said Cuddihy.

Fionnuala Britton was unfortunate not to make the 3000m steeplechase final finishing sixth in heat one in 9:41.17, just one spot outside a fastest qualification spot. Stephanie O'Reilly, competing in her first World Championships, finished eighth in her heat in a time of 9:55.49.

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