Hubert Lawrence, Gleaner Writer
THINGS can change in an instant. Before the Jam-aican Championships, Usain Bolt had begun to look like his old self. His 2012 case file included fine 100-metre runs of 9.82, 9.79 and 9.76 seconds.
Those times hadn't come with the silky smooth power of his sublime 2009 season, but they were sufficient to indicate that the best was yet to come. Then came Black Sunday.
Early on June 10, the tall man crashed on his way home from a Kingston party. He said he was fine, but the Jamaican Championships revealed otherwise. Looking sombre, he willed himself to times of 9.86 and 19.83 seconds. Worse yet, he lost. Twice.
He seemed to crab walk through his races at the Jamaican Championships. Perhaps because of what was announced later as tightness in his hamstring, he ran without the fluency that had begun to appear in Europe. Gloom descended over Bolt fans and some even abandoned ship.
The worthy winner was the World 100 champion, Yohan Blake, with world-leading times of 9.75 and 19.80 seconds.
People scoffed when, in this space and elsewhere last year, he was ranked as the number one 100-metre man of 2011. Funnily enough, the Jamaican Championships 100-metre results followed those rankings precisely with the World champion first, Usain second and Asafa Powell third. Many thought he would be the sprinter of the future, but when you run 9.75, your time is now.
Blake hasn't got his due, but that is perhaps understandable. Bolt has been the face of the sport since the 2008 Olympics and he has earned it. His stunning Beijing-Berlin world record double-double are jewels in a crown of four years of dominance.
Third loss ever
His defeat in the 100 was just his third loss ever in the straight sprint. The reverse in the 200 was his first in five seasons.
He's fine now, according to reports. For those who need proof, there was a clue at the Jamaican Championships. The 19.83 was his first 200 of the year and is 0.20 faster than he had run at the same stage of the 2011 season.
As bad as he looked in Kingston, he is actually ahead of schedule. Last year, he ran 9.76 after the World Championships. He did that time already, in Rome in June.
His 2011 200-metre campaign peaked with a super run of 19.40 seconds to retain his world title in Daegu and to restore some face after his false start in the 100 final.
Only Bolt himself - 19.19 and 19.30 - and American superman Michael Johnson - 19.32 - have run faster in a major championship.
Sensationally, Blake moved past Johnson into number two all-time in the 200 in Brussels last year with a super run of 19.26 seconds.
By contrast, the best of the rest of the 200-metre world - Daegu bronze medal winner Christophe Lemaitre of France - has a medal, not winning, as his target in the 200.
Speaking after his London run of 19.91 seconds, he said: "For the Olympic Games I want to go even faster, because with Bolt, Blake and the other sprinters I think I must beat my personal best if I want to win a medal."
IF BOLT IS READY
His existing best, 19.80 seconds, took him to third in Daegu.
Blake's speed and fitness won't be easy to overcome, but if the tall man is healthy, get ready for action. If the Olympic weather is like it was at the London Diamond League meet, world records are unlikely.
If the pride of Trelawny is fit, despite formidable opposition, he has a chance to do the Olympic double-double.
If Usain Bolt is ready, will you bet against him?
Hubert Lawrence has covered athletics since 1987.