“Bolt is back,” was the message from the stadium announcer after the men’s 100m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London on Friday evening (24).
And few could doubt it as the world and Olympic champion produced two impressive performances on a filthy night at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games in east London, twice running sub-9.90 into chilly headwinds despite some indifferent starts.
Bolt ran 9.63 in this stadium to win Olympic gold three years ago and 9.85 at the 2013 London IAAF Diamond League meeting here when conditions were decidedly warmer. But the doubters have been many and vocal in recent weeks as the world record-holder skipped meetings with injuries and languished in 62nd place on the 2015 100m world list.
Tonight he moved to sixth when he ran 9.87 in his heat then matched that time in the final, coming from behind to beat Michael Rodgers by 0.03s in this non-Diamond Race event.
“I wasn't looking for a specific time but I knew I could have gone faster if I had got the start I wanted,” said Bolt. “The key thing coming into this race was trying to get everything right on the track. The heats were good, but the final was not so good.”
A blast of PA reggae music greeted Bolt as he sauntered down the track before his first race, but the tall Jamaican took time to find his rhythm once the gun fired. Following Rodgers out of the blocks, he moved level with the US spritner half way down the track then eased ahead in the closing stages to cross the line in his fastest time for two years. Not bad on a wet track into a -1.2m/s headwind.
Bolt’s time was a full quarter of a second faster than he had previously run this year, but the world record-holder showed it was no fluke as he again overtook Rodgers in the final, this time defying a -0.8m/s wind and even slower start that left him with a metre and a half to make up after 30 metres.
He drew level two-thirds of the way in, then edged in front of his US opponent in the closing stages.
Bolt still learning
“My coach was happy with my transition and my last 50 metres was good,” said Bolt. “But in the final I got a really bad start, I kind of lost focus for a minute and I lost my form but I got it back at the end. So it taught me a lot, these two races.
“I've been running fast in training, but it’s easier in training because you're under no pressure and you can execute well. My coach has been happy with my technique and my work, but it's all about getting race-ready now.”
Kemar Bailey-Cole was third in 9.92, the Jamaican taking 0.01 from his personal best, while Britain’s Chijindu Ujah was fourth, equalling his PB with 9.96, 0.02 ahead of in-from Frenchman Jimmy Vicaut.
Bolt’s victory was greeted with the customary London roar, and the volume was turned up again a few moments later when another London 2012 hero, Mo Farah, battled to victory in the 3000m with the sole world-leading performance of the night.
Farah was set up to chase the British record of 7:32.79 and although David Moorcroft’s 33-year-old time slipped out of reach, he produced a sub-1:56 last 800m to race home ahead of Morocco’s Othmane El Goumri in 7:34.66.
Farah took the lead at 2000m, passed in 5:07.74, but the world and Olympic champion still had six on his tail, including the fast-finishing Ethiopian Yenew Alamirew and Kenya’s Emmanuel Kipsang.
He kicked hard at the bell and opened two metres down the back straight before striding home on a wave of noise to win by more than two seconds.
“I got amazing support tonight which was incredible,” said Farah. “It meant everything to me tonight, this is where I made my name and it changed my life to win and become Olympic champion here.”
El Goumri ran a personal best of 7:36.71 while Kipsang was third in 7:37.05 ahead of Alamirew.
USA’s Jasmin Stowers showed she’s back to her early season form, clocking 12.47 into a -1.2m/s headwind in the 100m hurdles to leave a high-class field in her wake.
The winner in Doha in early May, Stowers dipped below 12.50 for the fifth time this year to set a meeting record. It was too swift for 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper Nelson who came through for second in 12.64, 0.01 ahead of Briana Rollins.
Jessica Ennis-Hill was fifth in 12.79, the Olympic heptathlon champion showing that she is finally finding some form as she attempts to get fit for the World Championships.
Hastings gets late birthday present
Natasha Hastings celebrated her 29th birthday yesterday by shaving 0.01 from her season’s best in the 400m, running 50.24 to beat fellow US sprinter and Diamond Race leader Francena McCorory in the non-Diamond Race 400m.
Britain’s world champion, Christine Ohuruogu, was just outside her best time of the year, clocking 51.00 for fourth.
Sanya Richards-Ross, who beat Ohuruogu at London 2012, anchored a victorious USA 4x100m relay quartet in 42.32. She will be back for the women’s 200m on Saturday, as will another Olympic champion, Renaud Lavillenie, who initiated an athlete-led decision to postpone the men’s pole vault until day two.
“For us, these conditions are really dangerous,” explained the world record-holder as the rain poured down in front of the disappointed crowd. “Tomorrow is going to be dry and I’ll come back and jump really high.”
Wet conditions don’t matter for distance running, of course, and Britain’s European bronze medallist Laura Weightman relished the cool night as she was roared on by the home crowd in the 1500m.
Weightman moved into the lead at the bell ahead of the 18-year-old Ethiopian Gudaf Tsegay and ran a 63.6-second last lap to clock 4:06.09. Tsegay tripped on the back straight and US pair Gabe Grunewald and Katie Mackay finished strongly to take second and third.
Matthew Brown for the IAAF