A below-par Usain Bolt leaves Ostrava with a question mark over his early-season form
If there’s one thing Usain Bolt will have learned from Ostrava, it is not to make pre-race predictions.
The Jamaican superstar had helped build up the hype surrounding his first European appearance of the season by saying that he was expecting to run 9.7 in the 100m at the Golden Spike meeting.
The reality, however, was slower. 0.34 slower, to be precise.
His time of 10.04 (into a -0.8m/s headwind) is his slowest ever clocking in a 100m final. Fortunately for the world record-holder, he did not have to face any of the big medal favourites for the Olympics, and he won comfortably enough from world bronze medallist Kim Collins (10.19) with Dwain Chambers setting a season’s best of 10.28 in fifth.
But with just nine weeks to go until the Olympics, Bolt’s run in Ostrava will have done little for his confidence.
“I had some very good starts on the warm-up track so I have no explanation,” said Bolt. “I had no feeling at all in the race, no feeling. I went out of the blocks badly and then nothing came. I’ll have to go back to the drawing board, talk to the coach. It was just a bad day, I have to get past it and look forward to the next one.”
Bolt is next due to race at the Rome Diamond League meeting next week, but there will be less room for error as he will be up against former world record-holder Asafa Powell and European champion Christophe Lemaitre.
In Ostrava the women’s 400m had been one of the most eagerly-anticipated clashes of the night as world indoor champion Sanya Richards-Ross faced Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu.
The American adopted slightly different tactics than usual, keeping Ohuruogu in her sights for the first half. With 100m to go, Richards-Ross moved up a gear and kicked for home, as Ohuruogu was the only one who could get anywhere near.
Richards-Ross won in 50.65 with the Briton in second with 51.19, the winning margin of 0.54 being notably smaller than when the pair last raced against each other.
Britain’s leading sprint hurdles trio faced a handful of Americans in the men’s 110m hurdles. While the USA came out on top, from a British perspective there was much to be hopeful for.
Dexter Faulk equalled his PB of 13.13 (1.4m/s) to win from Jeff Porter (13.29) and Ryan Wilson (13.35). BUCS champion Andy Pozzi had been in contention for much of the race, but seemed to fade slightly over the last hurdle, nevertheless running 13.36 – his second-fastest time to date.
Training partner Lawrence Clarke finished one place behind in fifth with a PB of 13.42, getting the edge over world bronze medallist Andy Turner, who set a season’s best of 13.48.
In the women’s sprint hurdles, UK record-holder Tiffany Porter equalled the meeting record of 12.65 to comfortably defeat Olympic bronze medallist Priscilla Lopes-Schliep (12.80) and former world indoor champion Lolo Jones (12.94).
European champion Renaud Lavillenie smashed the meeting record in the pole vault. The Frenchman took the lead at 5.78m, a height at which Britain’s Steve Lewis exited the competition, having equalled his outdoor PB of 5.72m.
Lavillenie then went on to clear 5.83m on his first attempt and 5.90m on his third, setting a world-leading mark.
Having cut short his 2011 season through injury, Wallace Spearmon is back in form. In Ostrava the American continued his unbeaten streak this year, winning the 200m in 20.14 (-0.3m/s) from Jamaica’s Marvin Anderson (20.41).
World and Olympic champion Veronica Campbell-Brown was an even more decisive winner in the women’s event. The Jamaican already had a huge lead at half way and she maintained it to the end, winning in 22.38 (-0.3m/s), almost half a second ahead of USA’s Bianca Knight (22.85).
The head-to-head clash between Pamela Jelimo and Caster Semenya turned into an exhibition run. Kenyan Jelimo, back in form after three years of injury, looked every bit the athlete who dominated the event in 2008 when she won the Olympic title.
She won by almost 20 metres in 1:58.49 with Semenya – who held way back for most of the race – coming through at the end in second with 2:00.80. Britain’s Marilyn Okoro was fifth in 2:01.70.
European indoor champion Adam Kszczot opened his summer season with his fastest 800m debut, winning in 1:44.90. World indoor bronze medallist Andrew Osagie continued his fine form with a 1:45.26 clocking in second place, but UK indoor champion Joe Thomas was some way off the pace, finishing last in 1:51.39.
The two biggest hitters in the women’s javelin, Barbora Spotakova and Mariya Abakumova, continued their rivalry. The home crowd spurred Spotakova on to a convincing victory as she threw a world-leading 67.78m to the Russian’s 64.34m.
Kenyan youngster Isiah Koech enjoyed the biggest winning margin of the night. He went into the final lap of the 3000m with a huge lead and he held on to it through to the finish, winning in 7:37.14.
Britain’s Andy Baddeley was one of his closest challengers and he finished third with a big PB of 7:39.86, moving to sixth on the UK all-time list.
Former European champion Vania Stambolova continued her strong early-season form with a big win in the 400m hurdles, clocking 54.15. World finalist Zuzana Hejnova was second in 55.26 with Britain’s European bronze medallist Perri Shakes-Drayton taking third (55.82). The biggest surprise was the poor showing from world champion Lashinda Demus, who was sixth in 57.43.
Elsewhere, LaShawn Merritt notched up another 400m victory in 45.13, Canada’s Dylan Armstrong led from start to finish in the men’s shot to win with 21.29m, and Vitezslav Vesely defeated Olympic champion Andreas Thorkildsen in the javelin, 85.67m to 84.72m.
Both hammer finals were held the night before. World silver medallist Krisztián Pars threw a world-leading 82.28m to win the men’s competition from rising Polish star Pawel Fajdek, who set a PB of 80.36m. World record-holder Betty Heidler produced her second-best ever throw of 78.07m to take the women’s competition.