Deansgate was no real place for showboating yesterday, with the Mancunian weather living up to its miserable form. At one point in the afternoon the elevated track laid out down Manchester's main thoroughfare was in a worryingly waterlogged state.
At that stage, Usain Bolt, the great showman of the Beijing Olympics, could have done with a boat to navigate his passage along it. When the time came for the Jamaican phenomenon to get to his marks in the Great Manchester 150 Sprint, the sun had broken through and most of the surface water had been dredged. Still, as he got to his marks for the final of the exhibition 150m street sprint, the fastest man on the planet could have been excused a drop or two of trepidation, and perhaps a shiver of déjà vu.
After all, it was in similar conditions that the Lightning Bolt had skidded off the highway to Kingston back home just 18 days previously, overturning his BMW M3 into a ditch. Thankfully, the 22-year-old had no difficulty keeping control of his skin and bone speed machine yesterday. He did stumble as he rose from his starting blocks, but then he shifted into overdrive. With a vengeance. There was some déjà vu all right. It was like last summer in the Beijing "Bird's Nest" all over again as Bolt reduced his nominal rivals to also-rans and hit speeds never seen before from a human.
After blitzing through the 100m mark in 9.90sec, he reached the finish line in 14.35sec, the fastest time ever clocked for the rarely contested, non-standard distance of 150m. It qualified as a world best rather than a world record. The previous best time in a 150m race, set on a conventional curved track (there was no bend to negotiate on Deansgate) stood at 14.8sec by Pietro Mennea, the Italian who denied Allan Wells the sprint double at the Moscow Olympics in 1980 with his flying finish in the 200m.
It was jaw-dropping stuff. All the more so considering Bolt required minor surgery to remove some thorns upon which he had trodden while exiting his smashed vehicle two and a half weeks ago. He only resumed full training last Monday and yet he won by a veritable street – a Coronation Street, you could say. Marlon Devonish, an Olympic relay gold medallist in Athens in 2004, finished runner-up in 15.07sec.
Putting Britain's place in the scheme of sprinting things in further perspective, Dwain Chambers opened his outdoor track season with a time of 10.21sec as runner-up in the 100m in the delightfully named Ponce Grand Prix in Puerto Rico on Saturday.
Over the final 100m of the Manchester race yesterday, Bolt was timed at 8.72sec – with the considerable benefit of already being at top speed when the clock started for the split time. It all begged the question of just how fast the man who clocked a world record 9.69sec while slowing down in the Olympic final might run for the 100m in the summer track season.
Somewhat soberingly for the mere mortals of the sprint game, after pulling a couple of his trademark poses for the crowd, Bolt confided: "I'm not in the best of shape right now. I'm maybe 70 per cent. I've got work to do. I have to buckle down."
Bolt can reflect on a satisfying weekend all round in Manchester. On Saturday he watched his favourite football team lift the Premier League trophy at Old Trafford. He also pocketed an appearance fee reputed to be in the region of $250,000 (£165,000). Down Deansgate yesterday, the Lightning Bolt looked more like $1m.Reuse content