Commonwealth Games 2014: Usain Bolt eases Jamaica into men's relay final

Never has the build-up to a heat of the 4x100m been so eagerly anticipated

Hampden Park

This was the Usain Bolt show – the preceding three-and-three-quarter hours of action the warm-up act to the main event. It is always thus.

It did not matter that 400m world champion Christine Ohuruogu or Phillips Idowu, himself once the world’s best in his event, the triple jump, were returning to a major championships in front of a British crowd. Bolt was the undoubted centrepiece.

Any fears that 45,000 spectators might be baying for his blood after he allegedly described the Games as “s***” – Bolt has firmly denied this – or that he would not be up to the occasion were wide of the mark. The Hampden faithful were putty in his hands.

At the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, Bolt and the crowd had been denied their man when he was disqualified for false starting. It would have taken something of similarly epic proportions to deny him in Glasgow.

 

Never has the build-up to a heat of the 4x100m been so eagerly anticipated. After all, this was a race where nothing was at stake except a place in the final and the pride of the fastest man on the planet.

Even his father Wellesley, watching in the stands, was required to answer on camera how his son was enjoying Glasgow. He said quite  simply that Bolt Jr was going to “electrify the crowd” and how he did.

Picked to run the anchor leg, usually the reserve of Asafa Powell, who is only just back from a doping ban and not part of the Jamaican team in Glasgow, he merely extended Jamaica’s already gargantuan lead created by Kimmari Roach, Julian Forte and Nickel Ashmeade in  what was Bolt’s very first race  of the season. There were no signs of his previous foot injury as he helped Jamaica to a finish in 38.99 sec.

On the start line, the usual histrionics were unleashed and the usual result flashed up on the scoreboard come the finish. Aside from the last Commonwealth Games when their star names stayed away, Jamaica have won only gold at a major championship in the 4x100m relay. “We told each other just get it round, don’t stress too much,” said Bolt. “As long as we got the baton round we knew we’d be ok. It was wonderful, it was just like the London Olympics.”

It was a poignant day in the Caribbean, 1 August being the 180th anniversary of Emancipation Day, and Jamaica ought to be celebrating again tonight with Bolt and co on cue to add Commonwealth gold to  his myriad of Olympic and world titles.

England opted to rest 100m silver medallist Adam Gemili for their heat but the quartet of James Ellington, Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, Richard Kilty and Andrew Robertson avoided any of the mishaps that have bedevilled the English relay runners in recent seasons.

It was nearly a calamity for the English women, though, as Louise Bloor and Ashleigh Nelson came within a whisker of fluffing the final handover before finishing second behind Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Jamaica.

Idowu has aspired to be a character as colourful as Bolt but his headlines have more recently been made away from the triple jump runway – a ban for drink driving and a stint showing off his culinary skills on Masterchef. But back competing once again, he qualified with a jump of 16.70 for tonight’s final.

Ohuruogu, meanwhile, had deemed her 2014 season a below-par year, her body struggling from the rigours of being a quarter-miler.

But it is a viewpoint that has shifted. Having opted against running the 400m individual event, she has committed to the event at the European Championships in two  weeks’ time.

When Ohurougu received the baton here, the preceding trio of Emily Diamond, Shana Cox and Margaret Adeoye had given her a solid lead crossing the line as quickest qualifiers for tonight’s final in 3:27.88.

Scotland paid for resting 400m hurdler semi-finalist Eilidh Child from their line-up and missed out on a spot in the final. Like England’s women, the men’s quartet of Daniel Awde, Matt Hudson-Smith, Nigel Levine and  Conrad Williams led from start to finish.

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