World's fastest man becomes second best
"The Beast" turned out to be quite an animal.
Not even Usain Bolt can argue with that.
The Fastest Man in the World wasn't the fastest man in Jamaica on Friday night.
Instead, that honour was snatched away by Yohan Blake, the man they call "The Beast," who blew away Bolt out of the starting blocks and finished the 100m final in 9.75 seconds to upset the world-record holder by 0.11 seconds in the Jamaican Olympic trials.
A shocker? Well, that's for the world to decide. One thing for sure, however, is that the calculus for the London Olympics has changed dramatically.
Victory with an asterisk
"Nine-point-seven-five, it's awesome," Blake said. "I won the world championship, so I've got that.
Now, I'm the national champion for Jamaica, so I've got that. And now, I go into the Olympics like this."
Blake is, indeed, the reigning world champion, but that victory came with an asterisk because Bolt, the reigning Olympic champion, didn't run that night in South Korea after being disqualified for a false start.
This was their first rematch, their first real race since then between the training partners. Bolt was considered the favourite, not only because of his world record – 9.58 seconds – but because Blake had never run faster than 9.82 in his life.
Well, now, he has.
The 9.75 seconds on a calm night in Kingston goes down as the best time in the world this year and also breaks the four-year-old National Stadium record; both previous marks were 9.76 – both held by Bolt. Only Bolt, Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay have ever run faster.
More of a tussle
As much as the numbers, though, it was all that daylight between Blake and Bolt at the finish line that told this story. Blake got ahead early and, for a while, looked to have more of a tussle on his hands with Powell, who finished third, than with Bolt. As he always does, Bolt rallied at the end, leaning at the line – to make sure he held onto second.
Ahead of him, it was Blake spreading his hands out to his sides and letting out a primal scream. Bolt just pulled up. No pretending to shoot a bolt of lightning into the sky – the now-famous "To the World" pose – or anything else to celebrate on this night. Later, Bolt offered Blake congratulations, shaking his hand and using the other to amiably palm the head of an opponent eight inches shorter than him.
While all that – the daylight at the finish, congratulating someone else when it was over – was a downer for Bolt, the scene at the start was even worse.
Always the toughest part of the race for the 6-foot-5 defending Olympic champion, Bolt lumbered out of the blocks this time and had to churn those long legs to make up big ground simply to get in the mix.
Afterward, he said something near the start line was bothering him, beginning with the semifinals, where he also got off to a bad start.
"I had to ignore it," Bolt said. "I had trouble getting out, but I kept feeling like I could not give up."
He couldn't, if only because there are only three spots available in the 100 and Powell – the man who held the world record before Bolt broke it for the first time in 2008 – is a factor in every race he runs. He finished in 9.88, 0.02 behind Bolt and 0.06 faster than Michael Frater, who will be a part of the Jamaican 400 relay team, which also is trying to defend its Olympic title.
In the women's 100, defending Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce won in a Jamaican-record 10.70 seconds – equaling the seventh-fastest time ever – with Veronica Campbell-Brown in second and Kerron Stewart third.
Fraser-Pryce's form hadn't been great for much of this year, but she got back into the flow with a 10.92 in New York earlier this month. She won easily over Campbell-Brown, who finished 0.12 seconds behind, at 10.82.
"I always had faith because of my training," Fraser-Pryce said. "I came out here to do my best. I did my best. It worked out. I'm going to the Olympics."
Campbell-Brown provided the surprise at the 2008 trials when she finished fourth in the final and didn't make the 100 field.
She ended up winning her second straight 200 title at the Olympics and, this time, is back in line for a double.
"I don't like to go back in the past," Campbell-Brown said about the 2008 disappointment. "I'm just thankful for what I have today. I got my spot in the 100 meters. I'm happy for that."
Left out this time was Sherone Simpson, who was part of the 100 medals sweep in Beijing. She finished fourth.
Earlier, the defending Olympic champion in the 400 hurdles, Melanie Walker, earned her return trip with a win in 54.77 seconds.
Keep them healthy
Bolt earned his spot on the Jamaican team, too, and knows there are four more weeks to go before the trip to London. That's plenty of time to get in shape and get ready to – what? – catch someone instead of avoid being caught. The man who coaches them both, Glen Mills, said Blake came into this race in far better shape than Bolt.
"We're right where we want to be, going into London," Mills said. "We just want to keep them healthy. That's the key."
But there are two more days of racing left. It starts Saturday morning with heats in the 200, the race Bolt has always considered more his "job," while the 100 is more like a hobby.
It was widely believed Blake might provide a better challenge to Bolt in the 200 because he holds the world's second-fastest time at 19.26. Bolt's record is 19.19. The 200 final is scheduled for Sunday.
"He's a tough cookie, and I think he'll survive," Mills said about Bolt.
Blake will, too.
He changed the story line on this night.
Instead of talking about what it would take to catch The World's Fastest Man, he was fielding questions of a different sort: Is there pressure being the front-runner?
"No pressure at all," he said. – Sapa-AP