Rain puts damper on Bolt's flash at Toronto meet
On a night when fans were hoping to see sparks on the track, the rain poured down on Toronto's Varsity Stadium.
Despite the conditions, the star of the Festival of Excellence, world record holder and triple Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt, still managed to give the soldout crowd some excitement, generating a buzz the sport of track and field hasn't seen in Canada in more than a decade.
But Bolt's winning time of 10.00 seconds in the men's 100-metre sprint was pedestrian by his standards.
"Some days you have good days and some days you have bad days," the 22-year-old Jamaican said. "I guess you can put this down as a bad day for me."
The race was marred by rain and two false starts, which resulted in the disqualification of Jamaica's Marvin Anderson.
"It threw me off a bit," Bolt said. "But I'm happy I got through it injury free."
Bolt was already clear of the field by the 50-metre mark, finishing 0.25 seconds ahead of second-place Shawn Crawford of the United States.
Jared Connaughton of New Haven, P.E.I., and Toronto's Anson Henry finished sixth and seventh, respectively, more than half a second behind Bolt.
Connaughton, who clocked 10.09 last week at a small meet in Texas, ran a disappointing 10.51 on Thursday night.
Henry finished in 10.57.
Lopes-Schliep hurdles past Felicien
While the men's 100 metres was the feature event of the evening, the meet also featured world-class athletes in several other disciplines.
Priscilla Lopes-Schliep outduelled fellow Canadian Perdita Felicien in the women's 100-metre hurdles.
It was a close race from the gun and both athletes ran a clean race over the hurdles.
Lopes-Schliep, from Whitby, Ont., won in 12.86 seconds, followed by Felicien, of Pickering, Ont., in 12.88.
Although they are both from the Toronto area, neither had raced in the city since their high school days. Lopes-Schliep said bringing high-level track and field back to a large city like Toronto is crucial to growing the sport.
"Running at home and being out here in this atmosphere is awesome," she said, pointing up into the stands. "Those kids are awesome and I hope to see them out at future meets."
Lopes-Schliep is coming off a surprise bronze medal performance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and she posted the fastest time in the world this season (12.52) earlier this year.
Felicien has suffered from injury trouble, dating back to the 2004 Athens Olympics, but she still has two world championship medals to her credit.
"It's really slick out here, so not the best conditions to run fast," Felicien said. "But I absolutely feel that I'm on target and, to me, this race solidifies to me that I'm on target."
Brannen wins men's mile
Another marquee event was the men's mile, won by Nate Brannen of Cambridge, Ont., in a time of 3:55.07.
With a blistering finishing kick, Brannen overtook fellow Canadian Taylor Milne of Callander, Ont., in the final 150 metres.
"This is the first time other than the world championships [in Edmonton] in '01 that I've raced in front of a crowd like this in my home country, so it's awesome," Brannen said.
Milne hung on for second place in 3:56.54.
Both Milne and Brannen represented Canada last year in the 1,500 metres at Beijing.
The victory marked Brannen's second impressive race in less than a week. He ran a strong 3:52.63 at the Prefontaine Classic on June 9.
"It just makes me more confident going into worlds," Brannen said, "knowing I can get through the rounds and run two solid performances back-to-back."
Noticeably absent from the field was Kevin Sullivan of Brantford, Ont., a three-time Olympian and Canadian record holder.
He was a late scratch due to a lower leg injury.
Organizers are hoping to make the Festival of Excellence an annual event in Toronto.
An estimated 7,000 people attended, with many peering through the fence on the backstretch of the track in a $25 section organizers dubbed "Lane 9."