Yohan Blake beats Usain Bolt once again, wins 200m final
No posing, no salutes, no fist pumping. First, Yohan Blake fell to both knees and rested his head on the track. A bit later, he simply paced in front of the jam-packed grandstand at National Stadium and stared into the crowd, letting all those fans soak in a nice, long look.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the man to beat at the London Olympics.
In a result that no longer feels like a surprise, Blake beat Usain Bolt in the 200 metres at the Jamaican Olympic trials Sunday, finishing in 19.80 seconds to edge the world-record holder by 0.03.
When it was over, Bolt was the first one to approach his training partner and buddy and give him a big bear hug. Moments later, Bolt was down on the ground, getting his right hamstring stretched out, while Blake was celebrating — rather modestly — in front of the fans, who now have not one, but two, legitimate gold medal hopefuls for the sprints in London.
"Usain always gives me a lot of encouragement and tells me to keep coming to this race," Blake said about the 200.
Boy, did he.
The win came two days after Blake, the reigning world champion at 100 meters, beat Bolt in the 100 by running a personal-best 9.75.
That was a shocker, but there were explanations — most notably the terrible starts Bolt got off to throughout the 100 heats and in the final, to say nothing of any residual worry over the false start that scratched him from worlds last year.
Bolt has always considered the 200, which better suits his lanky 6-foot-5 frame, his real work. And now, indeed, he has work to do there, as well.
As they approached the finish, Bolt was grimacing — or was that the hint of a frustrated smile? — as he looked to his left to see what hardly anyone could have imagined earlier this week: Blake beating him to the line for the second time in the span of three days.
"I can never be discouraged," Bolt said. "I'm never worried until my coach gets worried, and my coach isn't worried, so I'm OK."
Said coach Glen Mills: "Usain, he has the experience, the ability, he has been there already. He might be a little off at the moment, but I'm sure when the time of delivery comes around, he'll be on top of his game."
In the women's 200, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce ran a personal best 22.10 seconds to also complete the 100-200 sweep. She'll be joined by Sherone Simpson and two-time defending Olympic champion Veronica Campbell-Brown.
Fraser-Pryce took the world by surprise four years ago when she won the 100 at Beijing. Her next act could be this 200, where she beat Simpson with lots of room to spare, a 0.27-second margin.
"I'm still learning, you know," Fraser-Pryce said.
Even at that, Fraser-Pryce and the rest of the Jamaicans have some ground to make up. At U.S. trials this weekend, Allyson Felix won the 200 final, also in a personal best of 21.69 seconds.
"I'm happy for Allyson," said Campbell-Brown, who finished third in 22.42. "That's a very good time for her. And the faster we run, the sweeter it will be at the Olympic Games, because anyone who wins that will have to run very, very fast."
While word of Felix's mark had been swirling around Jamaica for about 24 hours, details of Blake's victory were just working their way to the States, where Wallace Spearmon won the 200 in 19.82 seconds Sunday.
"Well, I guess I'll see them in London," Spearmon said. "I'm surprised but I'm just going to worry about myself."
Most everyone else will wonder about Bolt — a guessing game that figures to take on Olympics-sized proportions.
Blake, Bolt and Mills all conceded that Blake came into these trials in better shape than the man whose marks — 9.58 and 19.19 — sit atop the record book.
So, was Bolt genuinely just coasting through this weekend in front of all his home fans, making sure he made it, getting ready for something bigger? Is his conditioning not up to snuff, and if so, is there time for him to get there? Or, might he be hurting, as it appeared when he was getting his leg worked on while lying on the track?
"I don't want to get into that," Bolt said. "I was just working [the leg] around for a few moments to get myself back together. I'm not far off. I can get it done."
Blake will be making his first trip to the Olympics, which can be a daunting prospect, but if these victories over Bolt are giving him any sense of false confidence, he's not showing it.
"It leaves me to get back into training," he said. "It's not over. I still have the Olympics to go."
On the other hand, if Bolt was feeling any sense that he had it made — well, he no longer has to worry about that.
He said this race was lost in the curve — the same curve Blake has been watching Bolt run for the past several months in practice, picking up tips, learning the nuances.
"I was very sad with my turn, it was awful, but I've been working more on the 100 metres," Bolt said. "I can't blame it on that, though. Just have to get my things together and get it done."
After Bolt's bad curve, he came into the straightaway with a deficit. Finally, over the last 50 metres, Bolt started closing.
Like a racecar driver looking for something flashing in his rearview mirror, Blake could see Bolt closing out of the corner of his eye.
The best ones know how to close things out.
"I felt him on my right-hand side," Blake said. "No need to panic. I just stayed focused."