Leighton Levy, Gleaner Writer
Now that he has two of the fastest men on the planet under his care, veteran coach Glen Mills doesn't foresee much changing as World and Olympic champion Usain Bolt and World Champion Yohan Blake begin preparations in a few weeks' time for the London Olympics in 2012.
Bolt and Blake have been training together for the past three years in a set-up that has seen both reap tremendous success.
In 2008 and 2009 Bolt became triple Olympic champion and triple world champion, respectively. He successfully defended his 200-metre world title in Daegu, South Korea, but relinquished his 100-metre crown to Blake.
Blake, who at age 21 years and 244 days became the youngest 100-metre sprint champion since the World Championships began in 1983 this past summer, then went on to unleash a time that threatened Bolt's 200-metre world record in Brussels in mid-September.
The 19.26-second clocking makes him the second fastest man in history in the event, and puts him at the forefront of Bolt's challengers for London next year.
Similar but not the same
But does this really change anything in the camp for the Bolt and the Beast?
According to Coach Mills, not much.
"They don't do everything together. Their programmes are similar but not the same, there are areas of difference," he says, declining to expound.
Mills believes Bolt, the senior man of the fantastic duo, recognises and respects Blake's potential and will respond accordingly.
"They're very close to each other and Usain understands that Blake will get better. Usain himself has proclaimed that Blake is the next great one; several times, because he knows, as he trains with him. So Usain will realise that he has to train harder and, maybe for the first time, train like Usain can train," Mills said.
He said that, despite Blake's incredible talent and significant room for improvement, it will not be easy for him to supplant Bolt as the world's fastest man, at least not yet.
Blake's personal bests - 9.82 and 19.26 are close enough to Bolt's 9.58 and 19.19. That gap is not easily overcome, especially considering that both are still very young.
"Blake is 21 going on 22. There is always, at that age, room for tremendous overnight improvement, but Bolt is still very young; and if he puts in the work, he is not going to be somebody you move out of the way as you have a mind," Mills opined. "He is still capable of running the times he has run already, so it will make for good competition and good excitement."
As for Bolt's programme next season, Mills reveals that he is going to be turning up the intensity in his preparations as he gets ready to defend his Olympic titles.
For the past two years, Bolt's training regimen had been scaled down to allow his body time to recover from two successive seasons of high-level performances. All that will now come to an end.
"We're going to have to turn up the volume, turn up the intensity, he is definitely going to have to work harder," Mills said. "Some of the things we did with less intensity at maybe 75 or 80 per cent, we may have a longer cycle of 85 to 90 per cent. We tend to train the speed and then stretch it out, so we will go back to getting fast early like we did in 2008 and 2009 and then take it from there."
At the end of last season, Bolt was affected by a few injuries. Back spasms and an Achilles tendon injury ended Bolt's season in 2010 after he lost to Tyson Gay in Stockholm, but Mills says those injuries and a couple more that affected his training early this past season are now behind him.
"Well, he completed this season so he is okay. At the beginning of our competitive preparation he strained his hamstring and he had a toe problem, but those are behind him now, so it's just a matter of him staying healthy," said Mills. "We are pretty optimistic that he will be alright."