Usain Bolt at the pre-event press conference for the 2013 IAAF Diamond League meeting in London (© Kirby Lee)
Usain Bolt admitted on Thursday (25) that he has something to prove when he races over 100m at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games, the 11th IAAF Diamond League meeting of the year, at the London Olympic Stadium this Friday.
Bolt is back in Britain for the first time since his triple Olympic triumph at the London 2012 Olympic Games last summer and is on the hunt for a quick time to set him up for the IAAF World Championships, which start in Moscow in two weeks’ time.
The World record holder will line up as only the third quickest man on the start line tomorrow based on 2013 times, his 9.94 from the Jamaican championships being slower than his compatriot Nesta Carter, who ran 9.87 recently, and James Dasaolu, who leapt into the sub-10 club which he ran 9.91 at the British Championships two weeks ago.
“This year I wanted to run as fast as possible and hopefully to break the World record,” said Bolt. “But it’s been an up and down season so far, so I hope tomorrow will put me right on track to run really fast at the World Championships.”
Bolt’s Jamaican championships run on 21 June was his last 100m, although he’s taken the 200m world lead with a 19.73 outing at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris earlier this month.
However, he was defeated over 100m when he lost at the Diamond League meeting in Rome to Justin Gatlin last month.
Bolt admitted that not everything this year has gone to plan but he is confident that some “solid training” over the last few weeks has got him back on track.
“At the national championships my time could have been quicker but my aim was just to qualify,” he said. “Since then I’ve been working really hard, I’ve done solid training for the last two-and-a-half weeks and I feel in good shape.
“My confidence is really high and I am ready to run fast. I don’t really worry about times but I know I’m now in great shape. I’m going to run fast and hope to break the record.
“I’ve been training hard for three weeks and I just need to race to see if I need to work on anything else before the championships.”
He’ll certainly have some warm memories to draw on when he walks out into the Olympic Stadium for his event, the climax of Friday evening’s action, greeted by the raucous noise of 60,000 fans hoping to recreate the atmosphere of London 2012, which opened exactly a year ago.
“They are great memories for me,” said Bolt. “It was a wonderful experience here. The number of people who were always in the stadium, even for the heats or the semifinals.
“Beijing was different and it’s difficult to compare the two. In Beijing people’s minds were blown (by what I did) and it was my first Olympic experience as a medallist), but in London people expected me to do well. I had to stamp my class on the event.
“Running in London is like competing at home for me because there are so many Jamaicans here. It’s always good to feed off the crowd and enjoy it.”
Dasaolu will be one of the athletes hoping to upset the odds on Friday.
The Briton, who is one place ahead of Bolt on the world list, also sampled the London 2012 atmosphere last year when he made the semifinals.
Dasaolu’s breakthrough this season has come in stages, as he reduced his 2009 personal best from 10.09, first to 10.05 in the heats at the Diamond League meeting in Birmingham, then to 10.03 in the final, and then by another chunk in the semi-finals at the national championships.
Unlike Bolt, being the centre of attention is a new experience for the 25-year-old Londoner, but he faced this morning’s full-to-bursting press conference alongside the Jamaican in the unusual position of being the fastest man at the top table: on this year’s form, at least,
“It’s going to be a tough race,” said Dasaolu, almost chuckling. “I mean this is the fastest man in history here. I don’t know if I’m going to go sub-10 again but I’m going to give it my best and hope to use the home crowd.
Dasaolu puts his improvement down to a change of coach in January 2012 when he started working with Steve Fudge.
“The big change for me was when I started training with Steve,” he said. “He’s kept me injury free and healthy and that means I’ve been able to build on what I did in 2012 into 2013.”
“I now have a tailored programme that’s managed to me,” he said. “But I know I’m going to have run quicker to challenge the likes of Usain Bolt and the rest of the guys.
“I’ve broken the sub-10 barrier now and it will give me more confidence.”
Not surprisingly, both sprinters had to field a barrage of questions about the recent drugs tests of Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell, and the impact on the public’s trust in the sport, and their event in particular.
Bolt was clear in his response.
“It’s surprising what’s been going on but there are a lot of details still to be discussed,” he commented.
“If you’ve been following me since 2002 you will know that I’ve been doing phenomenal things since I was 15. I was the youngest athlete ever to win the World juniors. I broke a world junior record at 18.
“I’ve broken every record there is to break in every event I’ve ever done. I’m living the dream. I know I don’t have a problem.”
“I’m continuing to do what I need to do and focusing on the World Championships. My agent says I’m under-performing at the moment, so I have to step it up.”
Matthew Brown for the IAAF