It was supposed to be Usain Bolt at his most beatable. Instead, he sauntered to victory in a manner that only Bolt can.
The clock read 9.87 seconds both in his heat and the final on a cold and wet night on his return to here to the Olympic Stadium, his quickest time since September 2013 and yet it still looked like it was done without him properly at full-tilt.
There is no denying that athletics has missed Bolt – the world’s fastest man having only run four times previously this year with a quickest over the 100 metres of 10.12 seconds – and there were doubts about how fit and fast he might possibly be after a pelvic problem.
Instead, he laid down a marker to Justin Gatlin, whose four runs under 9.8 seconds this season, marked him out as the overwhelming favourite for the World Championships in Beijing next month.
After Bolt’s 9.87 in the rain, the bookmakers’ odds look certain to shift, the good versus evil script set to play out in Beijing between a man marked as athletics’ saviour, and the sinner in two-time drugs-cheat Gatlin. But for an athlete who had previously been ranked the 62nd fastest man in the world and is now back among the fastest, the Jamaican cut a surprisingly disappointed figure, an indication perhaps of the form he now finds himself in.
“I think overall it was a good run but my start was really poor,” he said. “My coach said relax and let it flow. I really wanted to run faster but it’s getting there. The heat was really smooth and I got a good start but in the final I got a really bad start and it went downhill from there.”
He talked of his love for the crowd and it was reciprocated with a myriad of Bolt masks and lightning bolt celebrations greeting him from the stands.
In the heats, he had dragged Chijindu Ujah a lane alongside him into the final and the Briton was even more impressive in the final, breaking 10 seconds for only the second time in his career matching his personal best from last season of 9.96s.
The flashbulbs that once more greeted his every move from the lackadaisical lean backwards and wave of the arms to highlight just how relaxed he was on the start- line proved Bolt was undoubtedly the star attraction.
And as if to pass the baton on, he warmly embraced Mo Farah as he entered the cauldron of the Olympic Stadium. When the pair triumphed here at London 2012 they swapped poses and Farah again swapped his Mobot for the Lightning Bolt across the line.
It was a nervy return for the Londoner in some ways, Farah admitted he was unsure how he would be received by a British public who felt let down by his no-show at the Birmingham Diamond League in the wake of the doping allegations against his coach Alberto Salazar and training partner Galen Rupp, which both have denied.
But from the moment he was pictured in the warm-up area, there was only applause for the double Olympic champion returning to the scene of his greatest triumph.
His past three races have all been over different distances and he has shone in each showing his versatility as an athlete. In Lausanne, he was victorious over 5,000m, a week ago he was fourth over 1,500m with what was arguably an even better display just outside his own European record over a distance in which he is no more than a part-timer.
Over 3,000m in London it was another impressive display and afterwards he said: “I’m pleased with tonight. I felt a bit tired at the start and I didn’t feel that good but it was important to try to win the race rather than think about times.
“The crowd has been amazing for me. To come out and get support like that has been incredible. It’s great the public understand and to get that support is amazing.”
The British athlete earmarked as the next Bolt, Zharnel Hughes, produced the run of his life to win the 200m in a personal best of 20.05, to put him third on the all-time list for his newly adopted country following his transfer of allegiance behind John Regis and Adam Gemili.
The time was all the more impressive into a headwind and off the back of a hamstring niggle last week in the lane from which Bolt had won 200m Olympic gold.
“In the Olympics, Bolt was also in lane seven so I thought if he can do it, I can do it,” said Hughes, who trains with Bolt under coach Glen Mills in Jamaica. “I came out and I delivered. I got a PB, I got the win and I got extra points in the Diamond League, what more can I ask for?”Reuse content