USAIN Bolt said he was on the right track to reach his peak physical shape at the Olympics after coming from behind to beat compatriot Asafa Powell in 9.79sec at Thursday night’s Bislett Games. However, he admitted he was struggling to get to grips with the new Omega starting blocks that will be in operation in London this summer.
Not for the first time this season, Bolt had a poor start and found himself trailing Powell by a sizeable margin midway through the race, raising the tantalising possibility that Bolt’s 10-1 advantage in head-to-head meetings might be narrowed.
Normal service resumed in the latter stages of the race as Bolt, grimacing with the effort, powered past his countryman to triumph in 9.79sec, his third-quickest time this year, but he admitted he was far from happy with the new style of blocks which were introduced at the start of the season for the Diamond League and the Olympic Games.
“I think they need to go back to the old blocks,” he said. “I’m not very pleased with the new blocks. I think they are little bit short for me. I’ve been kind of guessing my steps because my feet are so big — a UK size 13. I guessed in Rome and got it right but I guessed here and I didn’t get it right. I just think they need to go back to the normal blocks.”
Apart from his start, Bolt said he was happy with his overall performance, though his winning margin of just 0.06sec over Powell was a reminder that London will not be a one-man exhibition.
Powell, whose only victory over Bolt came in Stockholm four years ago, improved his own season’s best by 0.03sec to 9.85sec and said it was the closest he had ever got to Bolt in a fast race. “I’m not surprised how Asafa ran,” said Bolt. “People forget that Asafa is a 9.8 runner. He runs 9.8 all the time so this is not a surprise. For me, it was a good race overall and it was good for someone to push me and show that I still have it.”
Britain supplied two of the supporting cast members for Thursday’s sprint showdown though neither were able to steal the show. Mark Lewis-Francis suffered the ignominy of being disqualified for a false start while Marlon Devonish finished sixth in an underwhelming 10.40sec.
The world 400m hurdles champion, Dai Greene, insists that winning Diamond League races is of no importance to him this season and that his training programme has been geared to peaking for the Olympics.
One can only trust he and his coach, Malcolm Arnold, know what they are doing because Greene showed none of the strength and power that carried him to the world title in Daegu last summer as he struggled home in fourth place last night in a weary 49.98sec.
A long way ahead of him was Javier Culson, the Puerto Rican who took the silver in Daegu but has looked the man to beat all season. His winning time of 47.92sec was the fastest in the world this year and has been bettered by Greene only once in his career.
Greene, who appeared to be running out of gas in the straight, said: “It was disappointing. I’m not going to lie, I wanted a lot more. I didn’t think I was going to run as fast as Culson but I just didn’t feel quite as fresh as I did a few weeks ago.” In mitigation, Greene was forced to pull out of last week’s Rome Golden Gala with a stomach virus and he admitted his preparation had not been ideal.
“I thought I could have gone about four tenths faster,” said the Welshman. “That was the target in my head. I ran very aggressively from the start but it was a struggle from hurdle seven onwards. Hopefully, things will get a bit easier in the future.”
The eagerly awaited Olympic 5,000m showdown between Mo Farah and defending Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele is in danger of not even happening after the Ethiopian trailed home in fifth place in the 5,000m here. The race had been nominated by the Ethiopian athletics federation as an Olympic trial and, unfortunately for Bekele, the four athletes who finished ahead of him were all compatriots, leaving him in serious peril of missing out on London.
Bekele has yet to run under 13 minutes this season, though he insisted that he still had time to post a quick enough to catch the selectors’ eyes because the final decision would not be made for several weeks.
“I don’t give up hope,” said Bekele. “I still have time. No problem, I will make it.” Thursday’s race was won by Dejen Gebremeskel, the 5,000m bronze medallist at last year’s World Championships, in 12min 58.92sec, though Farah still leads the world rankings after his 12min 56.88sec in Eugene, Oregon, last Friday.
Jessica Ennis had a mixed night after recording her third-quickest ever time of 12.83sec in the semi-finals of the 100m hurdles only to be disqualified from the final for a false start. Victory went to Australian world champion Sally Pearson with a world-leading time of 12.49sec in her first outdoor race of the European season. Britain’s Tiffany Porter showed her own Olympic medal credentials by taking some big scalps in finishing third in 12.70sec.
Abi Oyepitan turned back the clock with her best 200m time in eight years to finish in second place in her race in 22.71sec — the fastest time this year by a UK runner and well within the Olympic ‘A’ qualifying standard.
The last time she ran so quickly was at the 2004 Athens Olympics, where she reached the final. Having already secured the ‘A’ standard in the 100m, the Tony Lester-coached athlete now looks back to her best after years of injury problems.