Saturday, August 15, 2009
Bolt-Gay showdown still on target
BERLIN -- Turns out, Usain Bolt can be beaten after all -- in a ho-hum second-round heat, when he's clowning around with the runner next to him and shutting down that effortless stride nearly 40 meters short of the finish.
Smiling as he sauntered down the track in the 100, the Jamaican sensation casually glanced over at Daniel Bailey as the sprinter from Antigua pulled up alongside him at the world championships Saturday.
Bolt never flinched, didn't speed up, just let Bailey have his moment.
Usain Bolt won his preliminary heat in 10.20 seconds at the world championships on Saturday.
Don't expect that to happen again. The world-record holder looked in fine form in his first two qualifying heats -- both in antics and in racing.
In an interview room next to the track, Bolt's top rival, Tyson Gay, was taking in the scene on television as he bent down to tie his shoe.
"Looks easy," Gay said.
Almost too easy. And that's who's coming after Gay's world title.
The 100 is shaping up as a showdown between Gay and Bolt, a three-time Olympic champion in Beijing.
That is, if Gay's groin holds up. The American sprinter has been hampered by the injury part of the summer and said it felt a "little sore" after his heats.
Overall, though, Gay thinks he's where he needs to be, even if his starts were a little slow.
Despite a slow burst from the blocks, Gay won his quarterfinal in 9.98 seconds, while Bolt finished in a nonchalant 10.03.
"I felt real good," Gay said. "I haven't even worked on my starts yet. So to run that fast felt good."
The best time of the evening was turned in by Bolt's teammate, Asafa Powell, who cruised in at 9.95 seconds.
In his opening heat, Powell shut his race down early and was nearly caught from behind and edged out for the last automatic spot. In the quarterfinals, there was no hint of letting up.
"I was running too easy. I underestimated the guys," Powell said. "They were coming on very fast ... I just wanted to get out of today."
With the spotlight squarely focused on the possible matchup between Bolt and Gay, other names are getting lost in the shadows.
For most, that's just fine.
"I like everybody to focus attention on them," American Monzavous Rae Edwards said. "When somebody like me sneaks in and takes control, it's like an eye opener."
U.S. 100-meter champion Mike Rodgers feels the same way.
"The pressure is off me, it's on them guys," said Rodgers, who had the third fastest time in the quarterfinals at 10.01. "They're the champs. They're the big dogs. I'm going to sneak my way on in there and hopefully make an impact."
Another contender is Dwain Chambers, who was picked to join the British squad after failing to earn a guaranteed spot in the trials. He won his heat in a season-best time of 10.04 seconds.
"I know how to conduct myself," said Chambers, who tested positive for the steroid THG in 2003 and served a two-year doping suspension. "Everybody composes themselves [differently in the finals]. Some people crack. I've got to make sure I don't."
Bolt teased the crowd with a few of his trademark theatrics.
He flashed a "V" for victory, popped his Jamaican jersey and did a little dancing.
That's tame by Bolt's standards, who's getting down to business.
Well, as much as the fun-loving sprinter can be. He walked through the interview room singing and laughing with Bailey.
Gay hardly spoke, and barely above a whisper.
These two definitely have different styles, both on the track and away.
"I think that's great," U.S. men's coach Harvey Glance said. "You've got the tall, lanky 6-foot-5 frame, striding out like a gazelle. Then you have the short, compact, strength and power of a Tyson Gay. Not only do you get great speed, but you get two different styles of speed."
"No," Glance said, laughing.
On the first day of the championships, three winners were crowned. American Christian Cantwell won the shot put title, while Valeriy Borchin of Russia captured the 20-kilometer walk and Linet Masai of Kenya took the gold in the women's 10,000.
With her win, Masai broke Ethiopia's decade-long hold on the race with a late surge that caught a prematurely celebrating Meselech Melkamu completely by surprise.
For Cantwell, this was a measure of redemption as he edged Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski of Poland with a throw of 72 feet, 3 inches.
Cantwell, who was runner-up to Majewski in Beijing last summer, won the event on his fifth of sixth tosses.
"I knew it was good when it left my hand, I just didn't know how good," Cantwell said. "To win it in that fashion is even more exciting. I hope the crowd enjoyed it as much as we did."