Bank on Bolt - Jamaican sprinter confident ahead of World Championships titles defence
Usain Bolt is said to be in 9.6 seconds shape heading into the IAAF World Championships, and he'll give the first indication of his conditions on today's opening day of competition at the Bird's Nest in Beijing as shot-putter Danniel Thomas looks to become Jamaica's first finalist here.
Bolt, who turns 29 today, will be looking for even more reason to celebrate as he takes his first strides towards a successful title defence in the 100m, with the heats set to get started at 7:20 p.m. (6:20 a.m. Jamaica time) on Saturday.
The big Jamaican, while admitting that he would have loved to have competed more ahead of the championships, having just run three 100m and a similar number of 200m races this season, is nonetheless full of confidence that he will leave Beijing with all titles intact as he underlined his readiness to face what is expected to be a fiery test, particularly from American Justin Gatlin.
"I'm definitely feeling good. I always wish I could have got more races before the championships, but I'm training good. Everything's coming together," Bolt said at a press conference held at the Nuo Hotel in Beijing yesterday.
"My start is always my issue. We had to adjust a few things coming into the championships. We worked on that and everything is where it's supposed to be. I did my last block-start session yesterday (Wednesday) and my coach was smiling, so thumbs up to me. I'm happy with where it's at, and I know I just have to go out there now and execute," Bolt added.
The six-time Olympic and eight-time World Champs gold medallist said he was extremely confident heading into the competition and that he was in good shape, even as he admitted that he had harboured doubts about his ability to arrive in Beijing in top form while struggling through fitness concerns earlier this season.
"I am definitely in wonderful shape now, and the only issue is whether or not I'm in race sharpness, but going through the rounds will help," Bolt said.
"I wouldn't say I had doubts about whether or not I would be here, but whether I would be in top form, but now I'm in great shape and I'm looking forward to it," Bolt underlined.
Bolt will be joined in the men's 100m heats by national champion Asafa Powell, Nickel Ashmeade, and Nesta Carter, who replaces Kemar Bailey-Cole, who had to pull out of the team due to a leg injury suffered last week.
Powell is the fastest Jamaican this year, with a 9.81 mark, which goes well with his seven sub-10-seconds times, and comes into Beijing with renewed confidence and assurance.
"I'm very pleased and happy with how I am running. I haven't been able to nail the start yet in the competitions I've had before, but we are doing a lot of work, and I am anticipating it," said Powell. "I'm in gold-medal shape. I am one to contend with, and I am going out there to give everything I have, and I will definitely run fast."
Salcia Slack, who competes in the heptathlon, is the first Jamaican in action, with four of the seven disciplines that make up the events set for the opening day.
Slack will first line up in the 100m hurdles at 8 p.m. (Jamaica time) before turning her attention to the high jump at 9:20 p.m.; shot put (5:30 a.m. Saturday), and the 200m at 7:15 a.m., also on Saturday.
Danniel Thomas will line up in the qualification round for the women's shot put at 9:10 p.m. tonight with one eye set on the final, set for 7:05 a.m. (Saturday), while men's 400m hurdles representatives Roxroy Cato, Annsert White, and Leford Green will all be looking to advance from their heats, which get under way at 5:35 a.m. tomorrow.
Triple-jump competitor Kimberly Williams will be hoping to replicate her Commonwealth Games gold-medal performance here, but she must first navigate the qualifiers, which get going at 6:10 a.m. tomorrow.