Anniversary Games: British sprinter James Dasaolu claims - 'I belong in Usain Bolt's class'

Britain’s fastest rising man takes on Jamaican – and doesn’t feel out of his depth, he tells Matt Majendie

Less than two weeks ago, James Dasaolu was a virtual unknown outside the  confines of athletics. Today, Britain’s current fastest man sat next to the world’s fastest in Usain Bolt before their 100m showdown at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games at the Olympic Stadium tomorrow.

It was a personality and sporting mismatch, Bolt has admitted he has lost count of the number of times he has run under 10 seconds en route to six Olympic and five world titles, while Dasaolu has dipped under that magical barrier just once. In addition, Bolt is accustomed to the media and public spotlight, mobbed everywhere, the camera flashes seeming to bounce off him such is his nonchalance.

Dasaolu, in contrast, has not been used to such attention, the softly -spoken Londoner looking somewhat  bemused as he was paraded in front of the world's media before the three-day meet to mark a year since the Games.

Saying that, Dasaolu warmed to the task and, alongside arguably the most gregarious figure in world sport, he held his own. The question is whether he can do so on the track.

Since Linford Christie, Britain has been crying out for a 100m sprinter to take on the Jamaican and American contingent who have dominated the distance in recent years, but Dasaolu believes he can be that man.

Asked whether he had the wherewithal to match, even surpass, the fastest man on the planet, Dasaolu said: "He's the quickest man to ever live, so it's going to be hard. But this is what I work hard for every day I wake up.

"I know I'm going to have to run quicker if I'm going to challenge him and the rest of the guys. I've broken that sub-10 [second] barrier so I feel I belong and it will give me confidence."

Quite what sort of company he can now keep on the track will become clearer tonight with Bolt alongside him, and again at next month's World Championships in Moscow.

In a sport currently immersed in drug scandals from sprinters to shot putters, there are those that will question the achievements of both Bolt - staying at the top as drug-cheat rivals fall by the wayside - and Dasaolu, who if he ran for another nation the British public might raise more than an eyebrow at his marked improvement to clock 9.91sec earlier this month.

It is an issue Dasaolu has been questioned on before and will be again but he is quick to point out his spike in speed is down to no outside influence but coaching and the medical back-up at UK Athletics' Loughborough base.

"The big change for me was in 2012. I made the move to train with Steve Fudge and he's been able to keep me injury-free and healthy, hence why I'm still able to run a PB," he explained.

Running such a time in a one-off race is one thing, doing so repeatedly quite another. Dasaolu has had more breakdowns than he'd care to remember, injuries repeatedly curtailing him as his season has just got going.

Not so this year although his withdrawal from the final of the British National Championships where he set his electric time in the semi-final led to further questions how his body might hold up in three rounds if he has aspirations for a medal at the worlds. But he insisted he was not concerned and what happened in Birmingham was merely a precaution with cramp.

"I wouldn't say I was a fragile athlete," he said. "I was just doing incorrect training that wasn't suited to me. Now I'm healthy and fit and able to run and enjoy the sport."

It may be premature to talk of Dasaolu as the saviour of British sprinting but that sub-10-second race has made him a big draw at the Olympic Stadium, where he has raced Bolt  before in an Olympic heat, although he did not come close to troubling a virtually jogging Jamaican.

"I know it's going to be a tough race against the quickest man in history, a six-time Olympic gold medallist. I'm just going to give it my best and enjoy competing in front of a home crowd."

There may be two showdowns between the two, who may both run the anchor leg in the 4x100m relay tomorrow. "We're eyeing up secretly maybe a British record in the run-up to Moscow. We're a new-look team and we can't wait to get out there."

 

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It's about as close as Dasaolu will get to fighting talk. He has none of the bravado usually reserved for the best sprinters and, while the lightning bolt and all manner of on-track dramatics will come from Bolt, there will be nothing of the like from Dasaolu. His 9.91sec run in Birmingham was merely greeted with arms outstretched and a look of sheer delight.

Fudge, who coached Jonnie Peacock to victory in the 100m at the IPC World Championships in Lyons, is hopeful of celebrating a second major win in the space of a week. But Fudge also  believes that technical improvements can be made, insisting Dasaolu is "not the finished article".

There is a sense he can get faster but Britain's 2004 relay gold medallist Darren Campbell said his current best would strike fear into his rivals. For Bolt's part, he looked far from fearful slumped in a chair beside Dasaolu but, then, the quiet man of the track, seemed equally comfortable in such lofty company.

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