Usain Bolt was last night getting ready to lock horns again with the training partner he calls "The Beast", still lamenting the mauling he suffered in the 100m final at the Jamaican Olympic trials. "Beast devours Bolt" proclaimed the front-page headline in the Jamaica Gleaner in the wake of Bolt's stunning defeat to Yohan Blake at the National Stadium in Kingston.
"For me to get left in the blocks was really bad," Bolt reflected as he moved on to the second leg of his double head-to-head with his Racers Track Club sprint stablemate, the 200m. "I got left, and in a quality field like that it's hard to get it back."
The 100m and 200m Olympic champion and world record-holder has been struggling with his starts all summer and paid the price for getting caught napping in his blocks when national pride was on the line in the 100m trials final. He clawed his way through to second place in 9.86sec – 0.02sec ahead of Asafa Powell in third – but could not close the gap on Blake, the 22-year-old from Montego Bay who took the World Championship 100m title after Bolt's false start disqualification in Daegu last August.
Blake triumphed in 9.75sec, a personal best and the fastest time in the world this year, eclipsing the 9.76sec Bolt clocked in Rome in May. The biggest concern for Bolt was the margin of defeat – 0.11sec – in what was only his second loss (apart from the Daegu false start) since the Beijing Olympics four years ago.
The 25-year-old was beaten by Tyson Gay in a 100m race in Stockholm in August 2010 but he was suffering from an injury that curtailed his season. This time Bolt knows he has serious work to do, notably on his start, if he is to stop The Beast from devouring his Olympic 100m and 200m titles in London.
Both men were back in action in the 200m semi-finals in the early hours British time yesterday. They were drawn in separate races and Blake was the faster, winning his in 19.93sec. Bolt won his heat, his first 200m race of the year, in 20.26sec.
"It's all about qualifying," he said. "It was a good overall race. I felt good on the corner. I haven't run a corner for a while. I'm feeling all right; I'm feeling a little bit better. The 200m is much easier at the start. I don't see anybody."
After the 100m final Bolt said he had been distracted by one of his rivals "moving on the blocks".