Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Armchair theories and the return of Blake

Published:Thursday | April 21, 2016 | 4:01 AM
Yohan Blake (left) on his way to a 9.95 win in the 100m at the MVP Track and Field meet at the National Stadium on Saturday. Rasheed Dwyer (right) finished second in 10.10 seconds.

When you think about it, there is probably good reason that the prime rivals of Usain Bolt have experienced injury. The tall man's combination of stride length and leg speed creates a dilemma for the rest of the world's best. How can they keep up without increasing risk?

Asafa Powell had recurring groin injuries before Bolt took over as the globe's sprint king in 2008. One such pain knocked him out of the 2005 World Championships months after he had brought the electronically timed world 100-metre record to Jamaica. Another dogged him at the 2007 Worlds.

Bolt clipped Powell's record from 9.74 to 9.72 and 9.69 in 2008. When Powell placed third in the Berlin Worlds to Bolt's wonderful record time of 9.58 seconds, Powell was racing with groin and hamstring maladies. To make matters worse, he missed the 2011 Worlds due to the dicey groin. That was despite him holding the year's fastest time - 9.78 seconds - before the Championship. Finally, the groin let him down in the 2012 Olympic final.

Tyson Gay was at the Jamaica Invitational when Bolt bombed the 100 in 9.76 seconds, a mere 0.02 off Powell, and lost to the 21-year-old tall man in New York in 2008 when the record moved to 9.72 seconds. He was injured at the US Olympic Trials and didn't reach the Olympic 100m final and ran an American record of 9.71 seconds with nagging groin problems at the 2009 Worlds, where Bolt zipped his pluperfect 9.58. He hasn't been the same since.

Yohan Blake challenged his friend and training partner in 2012 with a double win over Bolt at the Jamaican Olympic Trials and double silver medals in the Games. His time in the Olympic 200-metre final - 19.44 seconds - is the fastest second-place clocking of all time. Sadly, his injuries began in 2013.

Blake is known for his serious approach to training, and it's not hard to imagine him doing a bit more in practice to catch Bolt at the 2013 World Championships. Perhaps that contributed to his troubles. The injuries of 2013 and 2014 might instead have been random occurrences as injuries often are, but it's possible that the effort to keep pace with Bolt has hurt Powell, Gay, and then Blake.

Perhaps Blake has suffered the most because he knows more than the others how good Bolt is. Perhaps.

Thankfully, the MVP meet showed that Blake and sprint guru Glen Mills have found a path back to form for the 26-year-old 2011 World champion. His time of 9.95 seconds wasn't born of a quick start or smooth acceleration, but Blake's basic speed and classic sprint form won the day. There's definitely more there.

FINALLY RECOVERING

Blake has already endured disappointment on the way back and has exercised much patience to navigate his way to recovery.

Now, he will need to work judiciously to build on the progress revealed at the National Stadium last week.

Coach Mills is almost certain to devise ways to get his two speed merchants to push each other while preserving time for Blake to focus on himself. Whatever the training strategy and whether or not the armchair theory of Bolt causing his rivals to push too hard makes any sense, Yohan Blake is back.

A 9.95 in April of an Olympic year marks him once again as a major medal contender. There's no 'maybe' about it.

n Hubert Lawrence has watched Yohan Blake speed since 2005.