Spikes15 Jun 2015

The Man to Beat


Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt marked his return to Diamond League competition with a win over 200m at the Adidas Grand Prix in New York. Though the big Jamaican's performances this season haven't yet set the world alight, he will still be the man to beat at the Beijing World Championships come August. This is why.

1. Championship pedigree

No sprinter in history has managed to dominate quite like Usain St. Leo Bolt. At the last five global championships (two Olympics and three worlds) dating back to Beijing 2008, there have been ten men’s finals in the 100m and 200m. Bolt has won nine of them. His one 'defeat' came when he was DQ'd for jumping the gun in the 100m final at the 2011 world champs in Daegu.

In each of his nine global champs victories Bolt produced his season’s best performances (not to mention the odd world record or two), making him the ultimate championship performer. With such a phenomenal record on the big stage, the rest of the sprint world will be up against it in Beijing.

2. Slow starter

A slow start to the season has become a trend of Bolt’s later career. His form at the start of each of the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons was questioned, only for the Caribbean sprint king to deliver when it counted.

In 2011 he only recorded one sub-20 second performance for the 200m before blitzing to 19.40 to take gold in Daegu. Ahead of his successes at London 2012, doubts were raised over his ability to defend both titles after placing second behind training partner Yohan Blake in the 100m and 200m at the Jamaican Championships. Meanwhile in 2013, an early season 100m defeat to Justin Gatlin in Rome also raised questions marks before he roared into form in Moscow.

After his New York performance on Saturday, Bolt said: “I never try to worry – I just keep working, because for some reason I always figure it out.” He’s not wrong.

Usain Bolt

Anguilla’s Zharnel Hughes finished just a fraction behind Bolt in New York – close enough to force the Jamaican into a rare dip for the line

3. Time on his side

With ten weeks between Bolt’s Big Apple outing (where he won with a 20.29 running into a 2.8m/s headwind) and the first round of the 100m heats at the Beijing world champs, Bolt still has plenty of time to pick up his form. In fact, the comparatively late dates for the event (August 22-30) could work in his favour.

In the wake of his run in New York, Bolt’s long-time coach, Glenn Mills, said: “He’s going to be running a lot more races in order to get him into competitive peak shape. He hasn’t been doing much in terms of competitive running.

“Over the next two months, you’ll see him doing quite a lot more races with a more aggressive approach in order to get the kind of competitive level we would like.”

It's clear that an improvement is required, but time is on their side.

4. Back to The Bird’s Nest

Usain Bolt’s return to the Bird’s Nest Stadium will surely inspire. It was at the same iconic venue where Bolt first announced himself to the world. He became an instant global superstar thanks to his jaw-dropping performances and world-breaking feats at the Beijing 2008.

With the 2015 World Championships taking place at the very same stadium, Bolt will surely be evoking the spirit of ’08 as he bids to retain his crown.

Usain Bolt

No other track and field athlete attracts the same level of fan hysteria as Bolt

5. Prime condition

Bolt says his training has been going well so far this season and his coach agrees. In fact, Coach Mills believes that Bolt is in “better condition” now than he was at this point in 2013, when he was coming off a slight hamstring strain and still went on to sweep the 100m and 200m titles at the world champs in Moscow. So with ten weeks hard training and racing ahead, the Jamaican sprint icon has fewer obstacles to getting his body into the best possible condition to run against the world's best.

6. Man of the people

No athlete in history has proved as popular around the globe as Usain Bolt. The Jamaican superstar remains the same laid-back and fun-loving individual that first blasted into our consciousnesses at Beijing 2008.

With the reputation of many of his key rivals unfortunately sullied, Bolt will be able to enjoy unparalleled support from around the world in his quest for more world titles this summer. In a sport where the finest of margins can be the difference between success and failure, that is bound to count for something.