André Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter
Perhaps it's a changing of the guard, perhaps not; however, Yohan 'the Beast' Blake and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce picked up from where they left off on Friday night, registering thought-provoking wins over Usain Bolt and Veronica Campbell-Brown, respectively, in the 200m at the JAAA/Supreme Ventures Limited National Senior Championships.
The National Stadium rocked with excitement as two of Jamaica's newer breed of sprinting royalty gave their more-celebrated compatriots a nudge of sorts; Blake racing to a 19.80 win over a fast-finishing Bolt, 19.83 and the ever-improving Warren Weir, 20.03 in a Racers Track Club sweep.
It has been a weekend of firsts for Bolt, who was losing a 200m for the first time in more than four years and added further fuel to Blake's competitive fire. Interestingly, it now leaves track and field fans wondering whether Bolt, a world record holder in three events and three-time Olympic champion, is still the big man in the sport.
"I can't decide if I am the number one man, the fans and media will have to decide that. I will concentrate on going back to the drawing board and work on the things I need to work on," said Bolt after the race and a few embraces with his Racers pals.
Not accustomed to doing the chasing, Bolt once again found himself trailing Blake at the top of the straight and despite pumping arms, long strides and a grimacing face, Blake would not be caught; not last night at least, but with each passing race between the two, a London gold for Bolt becomes more of a question for some.
Blake was full of praise for his good friend, and credited him for his improvement in the event, and last night's nervy win.
"This feels really good. I can't complain," said Blake. "I have to give Usain thanks because he is always pushing and motivating me. Usain has always motivated me, even in this race he told me to keep calm and that's what I did."
Bolt may well be reconsidering passing trade secrets to his protégé. It was his advice to consolidate on the curve that helped Blake to a 19.26 200m personal best late last year in a meet in Brussels. That is the second-fastest time recorded in the event, only bettered by Bolt's world record 19.19.
Army of sprinters
Glen Mills is creating a little army of top-class sprinters and while the lines of dominance may be becoming a bit blurry, he is not too concerned with his main charge's condition.
"Usain is way ahead of what he did last year at this point. His first 200m this year is 19.83, last year he went into Daegu without breaking 20 second and he ended up running 19.40. He has the experience and ability. He has been there already and he may be a little off at the moment, but by the time the Olympics come around he'll be on top of his game," Mills said.
In the women's 200m, Veronica Campbell-Brown looked set to avenge her 100m loss at the midway stage of the race, but instead of slowing down, Fraser-Pryce, who joined her at the top of the bend, kept motoring away; 22.10
Sherone Simpson came out of nowhere to claim the silver medal on the line in 22.37, with Campbell-Brown settling for third in 22.42.
"I'm tired," smiled Fraser-Pryce. "It's a personal best and I have to give God thanks. Today was about execution, not so much about the win. I was happy that I was able to run the corner well and then come out strong on the stretch."
Campbell-Brown is just happy to make the team, she lives to fight another day and London is, after all, the real objective.
"I am happy that I made the team. That was my objective, to come here and qualify in my event so I have to be thankful. All is well. I am very confident and faithful. It's not every time I can win and I understand that," said Campbell-Brown.
London calls, and predictions may become a challenge, but one thing is certain, Jamaica's best is ready to deliver.