Usain Bolt vs. Yohan Blake in 200m final at Jamaican trials
For Usain Bolt, another meeting with Yohan Blake awaits at Jamaican Olympic trials in Kingston, Jamaica. Bolt's only minor nemesis Saturday night was, yet again, that pesky false start gun.
Bolt's latest drama in the starting blocks — a firing of the false start gun that didn't result in any disqualification — was only a minor blip this time. He won his 200-metre semifinal in 20.26 seconds to set up a Sunday final against Yohan Blake, who won his semifinal in 19.93.
Bolt conceded to being distracted by action on the starting line during a bad start that played into his shocking loss to Blake in the 100 on Friday. This time, though, he said there were no such issues.
"No, no, no," Bolt said. "The 200 is much more easy. I'm not seeing anybody, so it's much more easy."
But this week — the past year, really — has been full of trouble in the starting blocks for the World's Fastest Man.
Most famously, Bolt got hit with a false start at world championships in South Korea last year, which opened the door for Blake to win the title.
Given a chance to finally race against Bolt, Blake backed it up with his 9.75-second shocker at National Stadium on Friday night.
That time, the best in the world this year, was good for a 0.11-second win over Bolt, almost all of which Bolt gave up during an atrocious start that left him galloping simply to secure a spot in the top three. Going back to the semifinals, it was his second bad start of the day. Those, combined with the false start that delayed his very first 100 heat of the meet this week, certainly can't be helping his mindset with the London Olympics only four weeks away.
"It is kind of hard to run people down like Asafa [Powell] and Blake, with his top-end speed," Bolt said after the Friday-night loss. "But for me to get left in the blocks like that is really bad."
The start isn't as crucial in the 200, of course, and Bolt has always considered that his better event.
He'll have his hands full Sunday with Blake, whose personal-best time of 19.26 is only 0.07 off Bolt's world record. Two other runners, Nickel Ashemeade and Warren Weir, also finished with better times than Bolt on Saturday night. But when lane assignments came out for Sunday's race, Bolt drew No. 5.
The top three finishers will earn spots at the Olympics, and while the idea of Bolt not winning seems plausible now, the thought of him not making it is still unthinkable.
"It's all about qualifying now," Bolt said. "I paced myself and I am glad."
No surprises in women's semis
Shortly before the men raced, there were no surprises in the women's semifinals.
Veronica Campbell-Brown, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart — four sprinters with 10 Olympic medals between them — all advanced and will race in Sunday's 200 final.
Campbell-Brown is going for her third straight Olympic gold medal at 200 metres. She won her semifinal in 22.79 seconds. Around the time she was done, word was already filtering to Jamaica about her biggest rival — Allyson Felix, who won the 200 final at the American trials in a personal-best 21.69 seconds.
"Absolutely, I've been watching and checking the results," said Campbell-Brown, who won her Olympic golds by beating Felix in Beijing and Athens. "They are my competitors, so I have to know what they are doing."
Among the few Olympics spots handed out on a light Saturday in Jamaica were in the 110-meter hurdles. Hansle Parchment, Andrew Riley and Richard Phillips all qualified. At University of Illinois, Riley became the first man to win a 100-meter dash and the 110 hurdles at the same NCAA Division I meet. Earlier this week, he went pro, and now he's got a trip to London on the itinerary.
While Riley's major competition will come from athletes from across the globe — most notably, China's Liu Xiang, Cuba's Dayron Robles — all Bolt and Blake have to do is look across the practice field to see where their biggest challenge comes from.
Or, in the case of this week, just glance a few spots over on the starting line.
The man who coaches both sprinters, Glen Mills, said after Friday's race that Blake came into trials in better shape.
"I feel great," was all Blake offered as he hustled quickly out of National Stadium, closing out a day that began with a strange 200-metre qualifying heat at 9 a.m. in front of about 200 people, mostly cleaning crew.
Bolt, who has always invested more in the 200 metres than the 100, said he was feeling good, too.
"For me, it was a good, overall race," he said. "I felt good in the corner. I haven't run a corner in a while, so it was good."