LONDON, England, Wednesday August 08, 2012 – As the clock ticks ever closer to the men’s 200 metres final in London on Thursday, fans from Jamaica and around the world continue to wonder whether young Yohan Blake has what it takes to steal the legendary lightning Bolt’s Olympic thunder.
Unlike the inevitable death and taxes, unpredictability and the unexpected give sport its compelling appeal and there are no guarantees that any of the contestants who line up in today’s semi-finals will still be contenders tomorrow.
But provided Bolt and Blake make it through unscathed, tomorrow’s showdown promises to be one of the most exciting and dramatic 200 metres the world has ever seen, with Blake having something to prove and Bolt determined to carve his name indelibly on Olympic history’s page.
Not that Bolt hasn’t already made an inerasable mark. Yet while the rest of the world was telling him that his legendary status was secured when he successfully defended his 100 metres title in 9.63 seconds on Sunday, Bolt appeared to remain unconvinced.
“The 100m is just one step in the door,” Bolt declared at a press conference in London. “But now there’s the 200m. I have to defend this one too; that’s what’s going to make me a legend. I’m looking forward to it.”
Three years ago in Berlin, his 19.19 second run marked one of track and field’s most astonishing performances, that of a man whose only opponent was the clock as he finished 0.62 seconds ahead of the field.
What will make Thursday night’s final different is competition from a rival equipped to push him to the limit, the same man who he credits for setting him on the road to victory in the second fastest time in history on Sunday.
“When Yohan Blake beat me twice at the (Jamaican) trials, it woke me up, opened my eyes,” Bolt said. “It was pretty much a knock on my door with him saying ‘Usain, it’s Olympic year. I’m ready. Are you?’ I just got refocused and came back ready.”
He unquestionably needs to be ready because Blake demonstrated his prowess with an amazing 19.26 second run in Brussels last year.
Reflecting on Sunday’s 100 metre performance, which now gives him the three fastest times in history, Bolt revealed: “I never remembered I was running against the clock until the last 25, 30 metres then it popped into my head ‘world record’ and I looked across on the clock. But it was too late to do anything about it then.”
With the longer event, however, Bolt has those extra few seconds to deliver on his dreams, like breaking the 19 second barrier, a feat that both he and Blake believe is feasible.
“I hear Blake is saying a few things about the 200m which is my favourite event,” Bolt joked, nudging his young training partner sitting next to him at the press conference.
It would appear that Bolt cannot wait to get his revenge over Blake, who in Kingston in June dealt him his first defeat over the half-lap distance in five years and set the fastest time in the world this year (19.80 seconds) to boot.
The Bolt that Blake will face in the 200 metres is, however, completely revitalised after being treated by Munich doctor Hans Müller-Wohlfahrt who is viewed as a guru by many of the world’s top sportsmen and women.
“He’s been a major part of my success of my career,” explained Bolt, whose problems associated with his spine condition, scoliosis, have regularly required the magic touch of the Bayern Munich doctor.
“I’ve been going to him since I’m 18, 19 and he’s really done great work on me. After the trials, he looked at my muscles, did his treatment and said, ‘Don’t worry Usain, you’re going to do great, just go back and train’. Hans is more than a doctor, he takes us to dinner, looks after me, comes in on weekends to treat me and make sure I’m OK.”
Now he seems more than okay. Invincible may be more appropriate.