Bolt from the blue but Usain is still king of sprint world

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The Independent Online

It was easy in retrospect in the 1912 Olympic Stadium late on Friday night to say you had seen it coming, that the defeat which struck down the mighty Lightning Bolt had not arrived entirely out of the blue. The amateur psychologists, the budding Freuds among us, might have read the runes in the Jamaican's somewhat leaden body-language as he emerged from the tunnel at the east end of the arena for the big race on the north side of the Swedish capital.

Was that the hint of a limp as Usain Bolt made his way up the finishing straight towards the 100m start? If not, the world's fastest man was certainly dragging his feet. In contrast, half a minute or so later, Tyson Gay appeared on the track looking like a man on a mission. The American had a purpose in his stride and was deep in conversation with himself.

It was not difficult to imagine the gist. This was the one. This was his big chance to claim the big scalp. And thus it proved.

Bolt lined up for the 100m final at the DN Galan Meeting but when the starting gun fired, at the third time of asking, he was never at the races. Gay was out of his blocks ahead of him and had the race as good as won by halfway. The 27-year-old Kentuckian prevailed by a stride in 9.84sec, breaking Asafa Powell's stadium record and earning a diamond to take home for his mother.

Bolt was the runner-up in 9.97, a pale shadow of the sparkling gem who had dazzled the world with his 9.69 slowing down at the Beijing Olympics two years ago and with his 9.58 pushing to the line at the World Championships in Berlin last summer. This was his slowest 100m time outside of a qualifying-round heat, and his first defeat in a 100m final since Powell beat him by 0.01sec at the same Stockholm meeting in July 2008.

So, had the sprint world turned on its head? Had the jolt for Bolt marked a definitive changing of the guard?

The answer was clear to see in the muted demeanour of the victor. It was not exactly a hollow victory for Gay, but it was nowhere near a decisive one. "You've got to be honest," he said, reflecting on the upset. "Usain went out there knowing he wasn't in the best shape. Neither of us was at our best, but I was expecting to win.

"I respect him for still coming down here to compete for the fans. I came here knowing I wasn't 100 per cent either. My knee was bothering me. I just blocked everything out and ran the best I could."

Gay has been hampered by hamstring and knee problems this summer. Bolt missed six weeks of training and racing because of an Achilles tendon injury. The rust was clear to see in his heat and in the final. Bolt has three weeks in which to brush up sufficiently to gain revenge in the scheduled rematch, in the final meeting of the Samsung Diamond League series in Brussels on 27 August. "I need to work on my strength," he said. "My strength is really low. It let me down in the first 30 metres. Tyson was in better shape."

Bolt's resolve would also appear to require some strengthening. On the eve of the big race he confessed he had "slacked off" this summer, with no global championship to aim for. In the wake of defeat on Friday, he added: "This is not one of those seasons when I am fully working hard. This is my easy season. If you don't beat me this year, then it's not going to happen. Next year I will take care of business."

In late August next year, Bolt's 100m world title will be on the line at Daegu in South Korea. Meanwhile, at Crystal Palace next Friday his American conqueror will be on the start line at the Aviva London Grand Prix. The Lightning Bolt, beaten in Stockholm but still king of the sprint world, will not attend the south London Palace.