Bolt is back
Hurbert Lawrance, Gleaner Writer
For weeks, Glen Mills kept telling us that the incomparable Usain Bolt was fine. As a nation, we scoffed. Even though coach Mills has a fine record of producing high speed quality, we needed proof. Proof positive came at last week's UTech Classic where Bolt showed his usual speed in his season's debut inside the National Stadium.
The organisers bravely placed their best event early on a rainy evening, but it didn't disappoint. After Kenroy Anderson, Yohan Blake and Kimmari Roache delivered the baton to him, Bolt anchored the Racers to a world-leading 4x100-metre relay time of 37.82 seconds. He looked smooth and fast on a leg that took only 8.8 seconds.
That's just about as fast as his best work on the 4x100. He drove fans wild with an 8.8 anchor at the 2010 Penn Relays and did it again in Daegu at last year's World Championships with another 8.8.
It's almost a footnote that the 37.82 is the fastest 4x100 ever run on local soil, and the first local sub-38 to boot. The old benchmark was set by the Racers, anchored by Bolt, at 38.08 seconds at the 2010 Gibson Relays.
MVP fumbled its last exchange, between Nesta Carter and Asafa Powell, after a fine third leg by Carter had pulled the MVP even. After the fumble, the victory was out of reach and the MVP finished in 38.27. Between them, Racers and MVP had seven Jamaicans on that relay. That kind of quality suggests that Jamaica has a good chance to defend its Olympic 4x100 crown.
Blake not far behind
After Bolt marked the register, Blake won the 100 metres with a super run of 9.90 seconds, his 13th sub-10 clocking. Despite the time, he didn't rev the engines to the redline. Much like his swift anchor at this year's Gibson Relays, it was routine for the world champion.
Carter, the World Indoor 60-metre runner-up, also came back later with a controlled 200-metre run timed in 20.48.
British Olympic prospect Delano Williams toured one full lap of the track in 45.6 seconds as anchorman of the winning Munro College 4x400 team, on a night when men's sprinting took centre stage.
In fact, the only bump on the Daegu-to-London road came when Olympic gold and silver medallist Sherone Simpson stopped with leg stiffness in the women's 400 metres. The early prognosis is cautious.
Now that Bolt is back, you have to wonder where all the doubt came from. Some of it was probably genuine concern. As a nation, we prize our revered status in athletics so much that our heart's desire is to have Bolt fit and ready to do what he did at the 2008 Olympics and the 2009 World Championships.
Even so, the assurances should have counted for something. After all, the guru has tutored Bolt in world record double wins in Beijing and Berlin and a world 200 title in Daegu.
Like MVP maestro Stephen Francis, Mills has delivered so much joy to us through athletics that he should have earned our trust by now. They could have instructed Bolt and Powell to skip out of the Classic because of the weather, but they entertained the fans who braved the elements.
As the tall man said afterwards, the athletes got a chance to experience the cool temperatures they should expect in Europe. Specifically, the temperature trend for August in London points to a high of 23 degrees centigrade and a low of 13 degrees.
The women's 100-metre final is scheduled for 9.55 p.m. on day two of Olympic track and field, with the men's 100m final, for example, set for 9:50 p.m. on day three. Temperatures then might be nearer to the low than the high.
So, despite the injury to Simpson, the UTech Classic was worth more than the price of admission, especially since it featured the return of the tall man. The athletes got a chance to face London-type weather and the fans got some of the earliest season sprinting ever seen. That's win-win-win.
Hubert Lawrence has covered athletics since 1987.