Judgment day awaits for Bolt and Gay with records set to crash

All summer long the world has been waiting for the battle of the champion speed merchants: Usain Bolt, the Olympic champion and world-record holder in the 100 metres against Tyson Gay, the world champion and fastest man of 2009, in the blue riband event of track and field.

There have been many forecasts as to how long the contest might last. The popular money has been on something less than the 9.69 seconds it took the Lightning Bolt to strike Olympic gold in world-record time in Beijing 12 months ago.

Back then in the Bird's Nest arena on that steamy Saturday evening, the Jamaican took his foot off the gas with 25m remaining. This time, with someone to push him all the way, surely Bolt will take the human speed barrier to yet another limit. We shall see at a little after 8.35pm British time tomorrow – provided, that is, Bolt and his American rival manage to get through the earlier rounds at the world championships without any unexpected mishaps.

It would just take the one false-start to put a dampener on the most anticipated sprint contest since Ben Johnson, pumped up to the eyeballs on Stanozolol, beat Carl Lewis in the Olympic 100m final in Seoul in 1988. Then again, there could be a more literal raining on the high-speed parade. While all of the track and field forecasting has been of a world-record time, the meteorological predictions have been pointing to heavy rain in the west of Berlin tomorrow evening.

How much a downpour might dilute the potency of Bolt or Gay, who last month in Rome equalled his American record of 9.77sec, remains to be seen. At least a little precipitation would add to the historical resonance of the occasion.

Gay, like the rest of the United States team, will be wearing a vest with the initials JO embroidered on to it. It was in a US vest – or "uniform," as the Americans prefer to call it – that Jesse Owens claimed his four Olympic gold medals in the Olympiastadion arena in 1936. He sped to the first of them, in the 100m final, on a heavily rain-soaked track.

Owens was 22 at the time. Tomorrow Bolt will be five days short of his 23rd birthday. Not that he is out to emulate the legend created at the Berlin Olympics 73 years ago. "Not really," Bolt said. "I know he did great things in the stadium here. He was a great athlete. I'll just be focussed on my race and what I have to do. I can't worry about what athletes did in their time. It's my time now."

In truth, Owens' best time as an athlete came not on the Olympic stage in Berlin but on the American collegiate circuit at Ann Arbor, Michigan, in May 1935. Within the space of 45 minutes the Ohio State student equalled the 100 yards world record and set outright world records in the long jump, 220 yards and 220 yards hurdles.

There were four days in between Bolt's 100m world record and his even more spectacular 200m world record of 19.30sec in Beijing. We shall see over the next nine days whether he can measure up to the challenge of producing a follow-up show in Berlin.

The encouraging thing is that he has breezed through the build-up as airily as he did through all of the fuss surrounding him in Beijing. Asked at his razzmatazz press conference about expectations of eclipsing his deeds in the Chinese capital, Bolt said: "I think it's going to be even harder here, but I'm ready. I know what I did last year and I know the responsibility that comes with it. I'm just working hard to do a bit better this year. I just put the work in and I believe in my ability."

And that ability could well take the 100m world record under 9.69sec tomorrow night – Berlin weather permitting.

The main events: Times and TV

*Today

Women's heptathlon: from 10.20am (Jessica Ennis)

*Tomorrow

Men's 100m final 8.35pm (Dwain Chambers, Simeon Williamson)

*Tuesday 18 August

Men's triple jump final 5.05pm (Phillips Idowu)

Women's 400m final 6.35pm (Christine Ohuruogu)

*Sunday 23 August

Women's marathon 10.15am

(Paula Radcliffe)

Men's 4x400m final 5.15pm (Bingham, Clarke, Levine, Rooney, Tobin, Williams)

All can be seen on BBC2/BBC HD

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones