Showdown in Paris
Jamaican sprinters Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell go head-to-head for the first time this year in the 100 metres at the Samsung Diamond League meet in Paris today.
Bolt and Powell, who share the fastest time this year of 9.82 seconds, meet (at 2:46 p.m. Ja time) in a much-anticipated showdown at the Areva meet at the Stade de France.
"Asafa Powell taking the start, plus runners like Yohan Blake and Daniel Bailey, I know the 100m will be a great race," Bolt said. "My goal will be not to lose this race. I plan to go 9.7. It should be a good race. Asafa is ready."
Following an Achilles' tendon injury, Bolt returned to competition in Lausanne, Switzerland, on July 9 and clocked 9.82 seconds. That matched Powell's time in Rome on June 10.
Missing today will be American sprinter Tyson Gay, who beat Powell in Gateshead last weekend.
The Stade de France race will be Bolt's third 100m competition of the season.
"I no longer feel the slightest discomfort as far as my Achilles' tendon goes," Bolt said. "I'm, however, remaining careful and being really attentive during training sessions. According to my doctor, I should be running at 100 per cent again in two or three weeks."
Powell is the last man to have beaten Bolt in the 100, two years ago in Stockholm. Bolt, the Olympic and world champion and world record-holder in the 100m and 200m, said he improved a lot after that defeat.
"My coach used to say that you have to learn how to lose before knowing how to win. Looking back at the race, I figured out where I made mistakes and I worked on correcting them," Bolt said.
Powell was overtaken in the final metres by Gay at last Saturday's British Grand Prix but Bolt believes his Jamaican rival will be dangerous.
Powell said he made a mistake at the British Grand Prix by underestimating Gay.
"I was in front, then I got a bit too relaxed while Tyson was pushing," Powell said. "I know what I did and it's just for me not to do it again. Against Usain, there is always a chance to beat him. Anything is possible."
Bolt said his rivalry with Powell is purely a sporting one.
"Asafa and I are enemies on the track, but we're very close outside competition," he said. "We like to get together and to spend time in each other's company, and even rap together."
Christophe Lemaitre, who set a French national record in the 100m last week when he clocked 9.98, will try to cope with the pressure in front of his home crowd.
The 20-year-old Lemaitre will run for the first time at the Stade de France and will be gearing up for the European championships later this month in Barcelona.
Bolt set a Stade de France record last year, clocking 9.79 seconds in cool weather and steady rain. His world record, set at the Berlin world championships last year, is 9.58 seconds.
American David Oliver will be the main attraction in the men's 110m hurdles (2:08 p.m. Ja time) where he will face Jamaica's national record holder Dwight Thomas. Oliver clocked the season's best time of 12.90 seconds at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon.
No world record has ever been set on the fast Stade de France track.
American Jeremy Wariner, whose season has been disrupted by knee surgery, will be competing in the 400 metres after setting a world season best of 44.57 in Lausanne. Jamaica's Jermaine Gonzales will also face the starter in the one-lap event.
"My training shows that I can run in 43 seconds now," Wariner said. "But my main goal is to try to run faster than in Lausanne."
In the women's competition, American Allyson Felix will run the 200m (2.23 p.m. Ja time) after winning the 100m at the US championships and the 400m at the Prefontaine Classic. She will face Caribbean athletes Sherone Simpson of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago's Kelly-Ann Baptiste.