Cautious Bolt 53rd quickest out of blocks – but still hot favourite
Saturday 03 September 2011
There was never much danger of lightning striking twice as Usain Bolt got back on his mark in the World Championship arena in Daegu yesterday.
Five days on from the false start disqualification that cost him his 100m title, the "Lightning Bolt" was taking no chances on his return to the track for the first two rounds of what for the Jamaican now is his redemption event, the 200m.
In the first-round heats the world's fastest man held himself firmly in check in his blocks until the bang of the starter's gun. His reaction time, 0.314sec, was slower than all but one of the 53 sprinters in the seven heats, yet Bolt still strolled comfortably to victory, clocking 20.30sec.
In his semi-final he lingered in his blocks again, registering the slowest reaction in his race, and again the second slowest overall, but coasted to victory in 20.31sec. Christophe Lemaitre clocked a faster winning time in the opening semi-final, 20.17sec, but the young Frenchman pushed hard all of the way to the line.
The only man capable of stopping Bolt in the final today is the person who scuppered him in the 100m final: himself. And, after the anguish of last Sunday, do not expect Bolt to be struck down by another self-inflicted false start.
"I will try not to false start again," he said. "It's compelling to stay in the blocks as long as possible. I will try to listen to the gun and be focused, because it's the 200m and there's room for mistakes."
The mistake Bolt made on the starting blocks in the 100m final, of course, was not holding back and risking giving his rivals a split-second advantage, but jumping the gun. "It was my fault," he insisted, rejecting the suggestion that his training partner and eventual race winner, Yohan Blake, had triggered his false start by twitching in the lane beside him. "I can't blame anybody else. I false started.
"If Yohan moved a little bit, it was still for me to stay in my blocks. I'm happy for him. He did well and he deserves it. I see him every day and he works hard, harder than me.
"After the race I just thought, 'I've got to move on from this. I've got the 200m to go. I can't get stressed about this.' For me, the big thing is the Olympics and I have to focus on that."
After the travails of last Sunday – when he ripped his shirt over his head, banged his fists in frustration against the trackside wall, and generally performed as close an impression as he is ever likely to get to a raging King Lear – Bolt was back in sangfroid mode yesterday, clowning to the trackside television cameras and playing to the gallery of the crowd.
"I'm back to my old self," he said. Which is bad news for the rest of the field in the 200m final. Bolt has not lost at what has always been his favourite distance since 2007.
Pick Of The Weekend Action
11am: Women's high-jump final
Reigning champion and second highest jumper of all-time, Blanka Vasic, is the woman to beat. The Croatian will face tough competition from Russian pair Elena Slesarenko and Anna Chicherova.
12.15pm: Men's 1500m final
Former champion Mehdi Baala of France is among those with a chance but Silas Kiplagat starts as favourite. The 22-year-old Kenyan boasts the fastest time this year and was in stellar form in the semis.
1.20pm: Men's 200m final
Usain Bolt was impressive in his semi-final and the 25-year-old hasn't lost a 200m race in four years – it would be a monumental surprise if he was beaten.
11.05am: Men's triple-jump final
Defending champion, Phillips Idowu, qualified with his first jump yesterday, and the 32-year-old is arguably Britain's best hope of adding to their solitary gold.
11.40am: Men's 5,000m final
Favourite Mo Farah made amends for his 10,000m disappointment by qualifying for this final in fine style.
12.15pm: Women's 800m final
Britain's Jenny Meadow watches on as the likes of Caster Semenya and Mariya Sarinova fight it out for glory.
1pm: Men's 4x100m relay final
Britain's quartet will have to find a way past a Bolt-inspired Jamaica.
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