So how has Yohan Blake been preparing for his big showdown with Usain Bolt, the most keenly-anticipated Olympic 100m since big bad Ben Johnson met Carl Lewis in Seoul in 1988? Has the man Bolt calls ‘The Beast’ been winding himself up for the blue riband event of the 2012 Games - pacing his room in the Olympic Village, and stamping his feet, with steam coming out of his nostrils?
“Er, actually, I haven’t realty been thinking about it,” the young Jamaican said yesterday. “I’ve been spending my time watching cricket during the Olympics. “
As a youngster growing up in the poverty in Bogue Hill, near Montego Bay, Blake’s dream was to play cricket for the West Indies. He still plays for Kingston Cricket Club and his priority when the Olympic track season comes to an end will not be a vacation. “No, I think I’ve got some Twenty20 cricket to play,” the 100m world champion said.
So when the rest of the world is counting down the clock to Saturday’s 100m heats, and the semi-finals and final on Sunday, Usain Bolt’s major rival and training partner will be in his room in the athletes’ village watching Andrew Strauss and Co get to grips with Hashim Amla and the South Africans in the second test at Headingley, which begins today.
“I’m trying not to think about the Olympics right now, “ Blake said, “so that when I’m on the track I can be more of ‘The Beast.’ When I’m on the track, yes, The Beast is bad. But off the track he’s different.
“He’s a calm guy. The Beast is something that developed over years from my training - because when I’m training I train like a beast. That’s why Usain gave me that name.”
Blake might have come to refer to himself in the third person, but the 22-year-old remains a grounded soul. That much was clear yesterday when he was asked how his life had changed back home in Jamaica after his World Championship win in Daegu last summer,
“I treat everybody the same,” he replied. Nobody’s different. I’m just a young guy. The only thing is I’m a fast guy. I try to talk to everybody - even the madman on the road. I talk to him because everybody’s the same.”
Blake’s talent has burgeoned to such an extent that is four years he has gone from a novice at the Racers Track Club to a serious threat to the Kingston sprint stable’s stellar thoroughbred. Indeed, at the Jamaican trials last month he won both the 100m and 200m – beating Bolt, the phenomenon who looked invincible at the Beijing Olympics.
“I was at home watching the Olympic 100m final four years ago,” Blake recalled. “I was nervous because I knew what Usain could do. In 2008, when that happened, I’d just left school and joined the Racers family. I tried out for the Olympic team and I didn’t make it because I was young and I wasn’t that strong.
“But now we are four years down the road. I’m stronger now. I’m confident. I’m not really focusing on Usain. I’m focusing on a good execution on the race day. If I go in there thinking about the other guys, I might get in trouble. “
The rivalry between the Jamaican speed merchants remains friendly, Blake insists – off the track, at any rate. “Me and Usain are always friends,” he said. “We joke around in training every day. When we’re training we just have fun.
“We’re keeping a good chemistry going on into the Olympics. But when everybody lines up it’s going to be different. It’s going to be all business… each man for himself.”