Robin Scott-Elliot: So, Usain Bolt is shot then? No, just undercooked

 

In the bowels of the Stadio Olimpico late on Thursday night, Usain Bolt, clad in an Italy football shirt, leaned across to Justin Gatlin and offered his hand. Gatlin took it and Bolt gave him a pat on the back too.

Bolt is not used to losing – since he became a flying force of nature you can count on the fingers of one hand the major races in which he has failed to finish first. Gatlin adds his name to those of Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell and Yohan Blake: the men who have beaten Bolt. But none of them have done it when it really mattered, when a major medal was on the table. Two years ago Bolt beat himself, leaping too early from his blocks and allowing Blake to become world champion.

Daegu was a breathtaking moment of sporting drama and while Thursday night’s blink-of-an-eye defeat to Gatlin lacked that impact, it still stands out. Bolt had come into the race full of confidence, looking relaxed even by his standards. The expectation was that this would be another Roman launchpad for his season.

He said afterwards – more than once – that he was not worried. He will head for Paris and Roland Garros, where he will present the trophy after the men’s final tomorrow, and from there to Oslo to run a 200m on Thursday. Somewhere en route he will watch the tape of the race.

On the plus side was his start – usually the weakest part of his race. His reaction time was the quickest in the field, better even than Kim Collins, the speediest of starters. But what was strikingly absent was the characteristic mid-race acceleration, when it seems as if the rest of the field have been paused.

Bolt simply looked undercooked. He has had problems with a hamstring injury and that has hampered his early-season preparations. In contrast Gatlin is well into his season and the looming US trials, in which there is no margin for error, mean that he needs to be approaching his best right now. His winning time of 9.94sec is not one that will worry Bolt for long.

When full race fitness returns, Bolt will remain an overwhelming favourite to win in Moscow. Similar doubts accompanied him to London last year after he was beaten twice by Blake in the Jamaican trials. Questions have been asked before and he has always been swift to answer them but there was one note on Thursday night that suggested being Usain Bolt is becoming more difficult.

“It has been really crazy since the Olympics,” he said. “It has been hard for me to get everything together because there are more demands. It is tough.”

His double double ensured his legendary status; whether he can turn that into an extraordinary treble double in Rio may depend on how he can hold everything together, the strain of keeping his body moving at speeds new to man for a third Olympic cycle and the strain of dealing with being the man everyone wants a bit of.

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

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable