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
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power