Sunday, 09 August 2009

Men's 100m - PREVIEW

Another solid dash - 9.91 against a 1.7 m/s wind for Usain Bolt in London  (Getty Images)

Another solid dash - 9.91 against a 1.7 m/s wind for Usain Bolt in London (Getty Images)


    • Tyson Gay wins an epic 100m clash against Asafa Powell, equalling the American record of 9.77
    • Asafa Powell takes a narrow victory over Daniel Bailey in the 100m
    Over the past 12 months, has there been a more eagerly anticipated duel than the expected 100m showdown between Usain Bolt, the Olympic champion and World record holder, and Tyson Gay, the reigning World champion?

    Gauged by international media interest and fan anticipation, the answer is clearly, no.

    Since storming to the forefront of the entire sporting world with his triple Olympic gold medal performance and three World records in Beijing last summer, the young Jamaican, who won’t celebrate his 23rd birthday until the final day of the championships, has become the sport’s most exciting and visible athlete, his every appearance attracting the kind of attention not seen in a generation. Yet despite the popularity and pressure thrust upon his broad shoulders, Bolt has illustrated that his antics in Beijing were hardly of the one-hit wonder variety and that big things should be expected when he hits centre stage in Berlin.

    Even after missing crucial early season training following an automobile accident and subsequent minor surgery in April, Bolt has run consistently well and consistently fast. His only rival this season has been the uncooperative weather. After a wind-aided 9.93 in his 2009 debut in March, he beat the rain in Toronto (10.00), was pushed by a +2.1 m/s wind in Ostrava (9.77), battled the rain and chill in Paris (9.79), and fought a -1.7m/s win in London (9.91). Only his 9.86 victory at the Jamaican championships in late June was run in cooperative conditions.

    Throughout the summer, Bolt has insisted that he’ll be able to make up for those lost late spring training hours, and that he’ll focus particular attention on his start, his only clearly visible weakness. He’ll need to if he’s targeting his own 9.69 World record, and to beat a fully fit Tyson Gay.

    After recovering from the injury that kept him out of the Olympic final a year ago, Gay, who is also the defending 200m champion, has returned stronger than ever. He opened his season with a sizzling 19.58 career best over the half lap in New York, and followed up with a strongly wind-aided (+3.4) 9.75 in the opening round of the US trials. Next up with a solid display in Rome where he equalled his own national record of 9.77, the year’s fastest performance, and decisively beating back a strong field. In his last outing, he clocked a windy (+2.6) 9.79 in Stockholm.

    But there is a question mark about Gay’s fitness. In both London, where he won the 200m in 20.00, and Stockholm, he was nursing a nagging groin pain, which forced him to sit out a 4x100m Relay race in Cottbus on Saturday (8). Gay has characterised it as ‘not serious’, saying that he’s simply learned to run with the pain. That footnote alone will guarantee that the first three rounds will be carefully watched.

    Behind the Big Two – well behind – four others with sub-10 credentials this season are expected in the field, all with good chances for a podium finish.

    Daniel Bailey of Antigua has been the season’s breakout performer. The 22-year-old has improved his island nation’s national record four times this summer, from a 10.02 dash in Kingston in early May all the way down to 9.91 in Paris where he finished second, despite the less-than-optimal conditions. His poorest showing over the past two months was in Rome where he finished fourth, but still clocked 9.97.

    Former World record holder Asafa Powell, who took bronze in Osaka, has also been struggling with lingering injuries. The Jamaican’s season’s best came in Rome where he clocked 9.88. Churandy Martina of the Dutch Antilles, fourth in Beijing, has a season’s best of 9.97 from his victory in Hengelo, and more recently took a win in Monaco in 10.07. Mike Rodgers joined the sub-10 club with his commanding 9.94 victory in Eugene, before taking the US title – Gay didn’t contest the final- with a wind-aided 9.91.

    Bahamian Derrick Atkins, the silver medallist in Osaka, has had a low-key season, with a season’s best of just 10.17 from April.

    Bob Ramsak for the IAAF