Wed | Jan 16, 2019

Is the tall man on target?

Published:Thursday | May 28, 2015 | 12:00 AMHubert Lawrence
Usain Bolt of Jamaica feeling the cold as he crosses the finish line to win the men’s 200 metres event in 20.13 seconds at the Golden Spike Athletic meeting in Ostrava, Czech Republic, on Tuesday.

There are a surprisingly large number of people who think Usain Bolt ran badly in Ostrava on Tuesday.

The tall man fought the elements and starting miscues on his way to victory in his second 200-metre race since the 2013 World Championships.

Despite all that, his winning time - 20.13 seconds - didn't receive universal approval.

You can understand why. Few recognise that Bolt doesn't have to be sharp until August. Like all reigning World champions, he has the IAAF wildcard automatic selection to this year's World Championship in Beijing in both the 100 and 200 metres. That means he doesn't have to be sharp in time for our National Championships, which are a month away.

On top of that, the weather in Ostrava was harsh, at 13 degrees Celsius, with rain sprinkling down even before the tall man touched down in the Czech Republic.

Sadly, the Ostrava shivers did claim a notable victim. David Rudisha, Olympic 800-metre champion and world record holder, hurt a thigh muscle in the men's 600m. The tall Kenyan now has to return to the treatment room after spending lots of time there since his magical triumph in the 2012 Olympics.

Bolt's race itself got started after two call-ups by the officials. Many may have missed those multiple-start attempts. In this day and age of the zero falsestart rule, that and the weather may have inspired some caution in the blocks.

If fans watched the race on TV sports reports or on, the race video would have been cued up to the successful third attempt. Viewed through that prism, his time of 20.13 looks quite a bit better.


Challenged by Gatlin


Underlying all that is a desire by fans for Bolt to respond to the lightning-quick 100-metre time by Justin Gatlin in Doha. His clocking of 9.74 seconds there puts him in Bolt's speed zone.

If he is in top form at the World Championships, the American will challenge Bolt. There's no doubt about that.

Even so, Bolt and his coach, guru Glen Mills, have to stay the course with Beijing the target for high-speed fitness. That's when it matters most. The men's 100m final is set for August 23. If he beats the world there, all else will be forgotten.

In the meantime, Bolt's schedule includes a June 9 return to New York where he set his first world record - 9.72 seconds for 100 metres - in 2008.

Perhaps that's where fans will get the performance that will convince them that the tall man is on target. Something swift there would settle all the nerves.

- Hubert Lawrence has made notes at track side since 1980.