Far from the madding crowd at the 2012 Olympic Stadium on Saturday night, the athlete most likely to emerge as a class act on the big stage come Games time got his season off to a flying start in the early hours, British-time, yesterday. Running in his first individual race of the year, the 100 metres in the Jamaica Invitational meeting at the National Stadium in Kingston, Usain Bolt emerged victorious in 9.82 seconds – the fastest time in the world in 2012 and his quickest-ever season opener.
It proved to be a test of nerve for the Jamaican, who holds the world record times at 100m and 200m and will be the defending Olympic champion at both distances in London this summer. Last August, Bolt lost one of his global titles when he false-started in the 100m final at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. On home soil in Kingston, there were two false starts by his rivals before the race got away at the third time of asking.
Bolt kept his cool, getting off to a crisp, clean start and pulling clear of the field after 40m. There is clearly much more to come from the Jamaican phenomenon, who runs against Britain's Dwain Chambers in the Golden Spike meeting at Ostrava in the Czech Republic on 24 May before his first Diamond League event of the summer in Rome on 31 May. Yet his winning time was still enough to knock his training partner, Yohan Blake, off the top of the world rankings.
Blake, who took advantage of Bolt's disqualification in Daegu to snatch the 100m world title, clocked 9.90sec at the UTech Classic meeting in Kingston three weeks ago and won the 200m in Kingston in 19.91sec – the fastest time in the world in that event in 2012.
"It's a good start, I would say," Bolt said. "A couple of false starts can throw you off, but I stayed focused. I don't think my execution was perfect but for my first race it was good. I feel better than last year, so I'm happy."
Christine Ohuruogu, Britain's one reigning Olympic track-and-field champion, also has reason to be satisfied with her night's work. Third place in the 400m in 50.93sec – behind Jamaican Novelene Williams-Mills (49.99) and the world champion, Sanya Richards-Ross, of the US (50.11) – represented an encouraging start to the season for an athlete who has been hampered by injury since winning gold in Beijing.
It was a bad weekend for Kelly Sotherton. The 2004 Olympic bronze medallist's bid for heptathlon selection at the 2012 Games hit the buffers when she pulled up injured on the opening day of the Multistars event at Desenzano in Italy. Former world youth champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson led at the end of the first day and the 19-year-old Liverpool Harrier eventually finished third with 6,007 points, a lifetime best by a huge margin but a tantalising 143 shy of the Olympic A standard.
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