Bolt human after all but vows to hit his stride again

Gay finally defeats his rival in 9.84 seconds as world record-holder fails to fire

By Simon Turnbull
Sunday 23 October 2011 04:08

Shortly before the high-speed action got underway in the splendidly preserved 1912 Olympic Stadium here on the north side of the Swedish capital last night, a white stretch limo pulled up halfway down the home straight.

Out walked the equally splendidly-preserved 62-year-old Vincent Furnier, who just happens to be in town for this weekend's Sonisphere Music Festival, at which he will be appearing under his stage name, Alice Cooper.

"Let the Games begin," the sexagenarian golf fanatic proclaimed, before taking a motor-driven lap of honour. It was a difficult act to follow, but when it came to the main event of the evening in the DN Galan Meeting it was a fellow countryman of Mr Furnier who proved to be the most worthy.

The men's 100m final was billed on posters and T-shirts around the concourse as "The Greatest Sportshow of 2010", although few punters seemed prepared to invest 100 krona in paraphernalia featuring the world's third fastest man, the injured and out of commission Asafa Powell, as well as the fastest two. Most people in attendance would have put their shirts and their krona on Powell's Jamaican compatriot emerging victorious from what was reduced to a straight head to head between Usain Bolt and the American Tyson Gay. They would have been misguided.

It was in the same arena two years ago that Bolt suffered his last defeat in a 100m final, when he stumbled out his blocks and finished 0.01sec adrift of Powell. Last night the Lightning Bolt was struck down for a second time in Stockholm.

The 23-year-old looked anything but invincible when he ambled out of his starting blocks in the first heat of the evening, although he managed to pip the Trinidadian Richard Thompson for first place, both men clocking 10.10sec. At the pre-meeting press conference on Thursday Bolt confessed he had "slackened off" this summer, without a global championship to aim for. In the final, some 90 minutes later, that slackness was clear from start to finish.

Sluggish out of the blocks again, Bolt was a long way behind after 30m and could not get himself up into contention with Gay. He finished a good stride down in 9.97sec, his slowest ever time in a 100m final, and 0.39sec down on the world record time he set in the World Championship final in Berlin twelve months ago. He had also set a world record on the only other occasion on which he had met Gay in a 100m race, clocking 9.72sec at the New York Grand Prix in May 2008.

There was a record last night, although the winning time with which Gay broke the Olympic Stadium record, 9.84sec, earning himself a diamond, confirmed that both men happen to be some way short of their sparkling best after suffering from injuries in recent weeks. "Usain is not in his best shape," Gay acknowledged. "He and I both know he can run a lot faster. He has had his problems with injury and my knee was bothering me. But I'm happy with the win. He is a legend and it's very important to beat him. It means something for the excitement of the sport. But I did not beat him running 9.5. I beat him running 9.8."

Gay has been hampered by both hamstring and knee problems this summer. Bolt has been obliged to take time out from training and racing because of an Achilles tendon injury. "I said after the Paris Diamond League meeting last month that I wasn't in the best of shape," the Jamaican reflected, "and I really need to go away and get strength up. That is the truth. Stockholm is definitely not one of my luckiest places. I like it here but I lose. I am not in the best shape of my life and Tyson is in great shape. My congratulations to him.

"Losing is not a problem. I have always said I am not unbeatable. I can be beaten. This is not one of those seasons when I am fully working hard. This is my easy season. If you don't beat me this year then it's not going to happen. Next year I will take care of business."

Next year Bolt will have his World Championship 100m and 200m crowns to decide at Daegu in South Korea – and the year after that his Olympic titles will be on the line in London. Injury permitting, it is a fair bet that we will see a different animal again when there are global prizes at stake.

Not that Gay, a naturally unassuming soul, could be denied the chance to savour his moment of glory. After all, the 27-year-old native Kentuckian fared rather better in these parts than one of his more celebrated countryman did 100 years ago.

At the 1912 Olympics George Paton finished out of the medals, in the modern pentathlon, in fifth place. He did, though, proceed to win some fairly significant battles as a decorated general.

For Gay, the next sprint battle will be in the Aviva London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace next Friday. Bolt will be absent from that because of UK tax laws but he is due to face his Stockholm conqueror in a re-match in the final leg of this summer's Samsung Diamond League series, the Ivo Van Damme Memorial Meeting in Brussels on 27 August.

That leaves the languid Jamaican three weeks in which to get his backside into gear. Time for No More Mr Nice Guy, perhaps?

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