It came as another Bolt from the blue. Four days after the jolt of Usain Bolt's shock 100m defeat in the DN Galan meeting in Stockholm last Friday, it was announced yesterday that the world's fastest man had brought a premature end to his injury-plagued, below-par track season following the diagnosis of a back problem. There will be no re-match with Tyson Gay at the Ivo Van Damme Memorial meeting in Brussels on 27 August.
On reflection, like Bolt's reverse against Gay in the Swedish capital, it was perhaps not entirely unexpected. It was clear in Stockholm that the Jamaican sprinter was a pale shadow of the invincible speed merchant of the Beijing Olympics two years ago and the 2009 World Championships in Berlin. An Achilles tendon injury had taken its toll, together with a lack of motivation in a summer season bereft of the big goal of a global championship.
After being examined in Munich on Monday by Dr Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt – "Healing Hans", the Bayern Munich and German national football team doctor whose client list has included Luciano Pavarotti and Cristiano Ronaldo – the 23-year-old and his advisers quite wisely chose not to risk any further damage this summer and to concentrate on getting the "Lightning Bolt" back to full power for the defence of his World Championship 100m and 200m crowns at Daegu in South Korea next year.
A statement released by Bolt's manager, Ricky Simms, revealed that Müller-Wohlfahrt had "found a problem in his lower back". "He has a tightness that restricts his ability to generate power in his stride," Simms added, "and continuing to race in this condition could risk injury to his hamstrings or calf muscles. With a view to his future career we believe further treatment to loosen his back followed by a period of rest will be in his best interest. We are delighted to report that the MRI scan on his Achilles tendon showed that it has now completely healed."
In addition to the long-arranged 100m race in Brussels, against the American Gay and his Jamaican compatriot Asafa Powell, Bolt had also been due to compete in a 4x100m relay at the Weltklasse meeting in Zurich on Thursday week. "I am very disappointed to miss two of the top meetings on the circuit," Bolt said yesterday, "but I trust that it is better for me not to take any risks this year. The next two years, 2011 and 2012, are very important championship years and I hope to be back fully fit and healthy. I would like to thank everyone for their support and look forward to coming back stronger next year."
In Stockholm, Bolt was only strong enough to run 9.97sec – 0.39sec down on the world record he established for the 100m in the World Championship final in Berlin last August. Still, even while a long way short of top gear, he has recorded the joint fastest 100m time in the world this year (alongside Powell), 9.82sec, and the fastest 200m time, 19.56sec.
What will Bolt miss?
Usain Bolt had already pulled out of this weekend's Crystal Palace meeting due to tax reasons, as well as October's Commonwealth Games in order to rest, but the Jamaican will now also miss the Diamond League meetings in Zurich on 19 August and Brussels on 27 August.
The Brussels meeting would have brought together the three fastest men in history – Bolt, his countryman Asafa Powell and the American Tyson Gay.