Beefed-up Bolt labours to win on reappearance

Before settling into his starting blocks here last night, Usain Bolt flexed his new Popeye muscles and mouthed to the television camera: "Number one in the world. I'm ready." The fastest man in history was back on the track for the first time in nine months but for the vast majority of the 100-metre race in the annual Golden Gala gathering, the first stop in Europe on the 2011 IAAF Diamond League tour, the beefed-up Bolt was in danger of having sand kicked in his face.

Sluggish out of the blocks, it took the Jamaican until halfway to get close to his compatriot Asafa Powell and he had to grit his teeth and dig deep to mark his return with a victory. Even then, it was desperately close. Only in the final five metres did Bolt manage to edge in front, ultimately prevailing by 0.02sec in 9.91sec, with Powell second in 9.93sec and Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre third in 10.00sec

He crossed the line shaking his head. This was not the Lightning Bolt of old, the untouchable speed merchant who could afford to take his foot off the pedal, start celebrating 30m from the line and still win the Olympic final in world record time.

Still, it was a winning Bolt. When last seen in action, in Stockholm last August, he was beaten by Tyson Gay. The American will not have been daunted by what he saw last night but, then, some rust was only to have been expected – and Bolt's time, a disappointment by his freakish 9.58sec world record standard, did put him second in the world rankings, 0.01sec behind his fellow-countryman, whom he is scheduled to face over 100m at the Golden Spike meeting at Ostrava in the Czech Republic next Tuesday.

Question marks will remain over the state of the congenital back problem that caused Bolt to curtail his 2010 season after his loss to Gay in the Swedish capital. He has made three visits to Munich this year to consult Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt, the celebrated German sports doctor.

"I think over time it should be OK," Bolt said, after milking the applause of the crowd. "I got through my first race. I was so nervous. I got a bad start and then kind of started to panic. My coach will analyse the race. I was not proud of the race, but I'm getting there. My whole focus this year is getting ready for the World Championships."

In the aftermath, Bolt might have reflected that even Italy's capital city was not built in a day. And there was one title for him yesterday to add to his collection, having been conferred with an honorary law doctorate by the University of the West Indies, making the world's fastest man now officially known as "Ambassador-at-Large, Dr The Honourable Usain St Leo Bolt".

For Phillips Idowu, the Briton who holds the world and European triple jump titles, there was a more satisfying season's opener. The 32-year-old Belgrave Harrier jumped 17.59m, missing Jonathan Edwards' meeting record by 1cm but earning victory and also top spot in the outdoor rankings, ahead of his French rival Teddy Tamgho.

It proved to be the only victory of the night by a member of the British corps in action but in finishing runner-up to South African Louis Van Zyl in the 400m hurdles, Dai Greene claimed the scalps of the reigning Olympic champion, Angelo Taylor of the United States, and Kerron Clement, the American who holds the world title in the event.

Van Zyl prevailed in 47.91sec but second place for Greene in 48.24sec – and a good way ahead of Taylor (third in 48.66sec) and Clement (ninth and last in 50.03sec) – represented a good season's opener for the Swansea Harrier. Not that the Welshman who struck European, Commonwealth and Continental Cup gold last year was satisfied with his performance. "I'm not happy unless I'm winning," Greene said. "I just wasn't smooth enough over the first five or six hurdles."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent