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Is Blake No 1 in the 100 metres?

Published:Thursday | October 6, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Yohan Blake - FILE

Hubert Lawrence, Gleaner Writer

The incomparable Usain Bolt is the fastest ever at 100 metres. Asafa Powell is the most prolific producer of fast times. Those truths are self-evident.

There is more room for debate about who is the top 100-metre sprinter of 2011. There are good arguments for either Bolt or Powell to be world No. 1, but there is another candidate, world champion Yohan Blake.

Usain was undefeated in races he finished and never ran slower than 9.91 seconds.

Despite nagging injuries, Powell ran the second-fastest time of the year, 9.78 seconds, won the National Championships and broke 10 seconds in eight other races.

Until September, Powell had won all the races where injuries allowed a fair effort except one, a close loss to Bolt in Rome in May.

Missing from Bolt's seven-race, 100-metre season is top honours in the World Championships. The winner there was Blake, who kept his head in the confusion that followed Bolt's unfortunate exit. Interestingly, though 15 men with sub-10 personal bests assembled in the World Championships semis, only Blake broke the old barrier with times of 9.95 in that round and 9.92 in the final.

After the Worlds, Blake avenged his Nationals loss to Asafa in Zurich. The big man was probably being careful not to aggravate his recurrent groin injury, but still managed to log his 74th sub-10 100-metre time, 9.96 seconds.

The 21-year-old Blake was well clear at the finish with the clock stopping at 9.82 seconds, a new personal best.

Three days later, in Berlin, he was at it again with an identical time. The wind made him the seventh-fastest 100-metre sprinter of all time with the joint 27th fastest time. When wind conditions and altitude are considered, only four men have ever done better.

The Zurich 9.82 was run in absolutely still conditions and the Berlin 9.82 had just 0.1 metres per second wind behind it. By contrast, Powell's 9.78 in Lausanne had more help from the wind, at 1.0 metre per second. That was the best time in the world until Brussels, when Bolt ran 9.76 with an aiding wind of 1.3 metres per second behind him.

The Zurich race did more than just move Blake up the all-time performance list. It evened his seasonal win-loss record with Powell to 1-1.

Despite the stated objective of the Diamond League to promote head-to-head clash, Bolt and Powell never met at any distance - except in Daegu. Given that Blake won the Daegu final, his seasonal record over Bolt is 1-0. That makes him the only man to beat Bolt all year and the only person other than Bolt to beat Powell in races where injuries allowed Powell to make a fair effort.

So who is No. 1?

Powell reigned supreme in the June-July period, but lost to both Bolt and Blake.

Blake, 1-1 in two meetings with Powell, won the biggest race of the year and zipped his twin 9.82 races right after the World Championships. Bolt, world leader at 9.76, beat everyone he met - except Blake.

Had the Diamond League managed to get all three together, or had they all toed the line in Daegu, the matter would have been resolved. As things stand, the data leads to one conclusion - Yohan Blake, 1-1 with Powell and 1-0 over Bolt, and World champion to boot, is the best 100-metre sprinter of 2011.

Hubert Lawrence has covered local and international track and field since 1987.