How fast would Bolt have run in the Brussels 200m?
Hubert Lawrence, Gleaner Writer
The Jamaican Gleaner
Thursday September 22, 2011
Like most fans, I really wanted Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake to race each other in meets that followed the Daegu World Championships. The tall man's unfortunate exit from the Daegu 100 left too many unanswered questions.
Now that Blake has run the second fastest 200-metre race in history - a sizzling 19.26 second exhibition in Brussels - I've begun to wish that the rematch were conducted over 200 metres.
Blake, the world 100 metre champion, got left in the blocks but produced a fine turn and a brilliant second 100 to scare Bolt's world record of 19.19 seconds. For those who care about such things, I hand-timed those 100-metre segments in 10.1 and 9.2.
By comparison, Bolt's splits in his world record races were 10-flat and 9.3 for his Beijing run of 19.30 seconds and 9.9/9.3 for the Berlin 19.19 stunner.
A Bolt-Blake 100-metre showdown would have answered the question of who is number one in the event this year.
Bolt hasn't lost, except in that fateful Daegu race, to anyone this season. Blake has a 1-1 seasonal record with Asafa Powell, took the world title and has impressed with two races timed at 9.82.
They probably should have run the 100 against each other in Brussels, but what we got from Blake was equally satisfying.
In fact, it was so good that you have to ask yourself what would have happened if Bolt were in the Brussels 200.
At the World Championships, Bolt redeemed himself with a crisp run of 19.40 seconds to win the 200 metres. Built on segments of 9.9 and 9.5, the run outdistanced Walter Dix, Christophe Lemaitre, Jaysuma Saidy Ndure and Nickel Ashmeade whose times were 19.70, 19.80, 19.95 and 20.29 seconds, respectively. With the exception of Lemaitre, they were all in Brussels chasing Blake.
Ndure, a transplanted Gambian who runs for Norway, ran 19.97 in Brussels and Trinidad and Tobago's Rondell Sorillo, who was seventh in Daegu, was 0.07 slower in the race where Blake stunned everyone. Perhaps, if Bolt had run the 200 in Brussels, he would have run slower too.
Perhaps not. Dix was 0.17 faster in Brussels and set a new personal best of 19.53 seconds. Ashmeade was 0.38 better with his new personal best of 19.91 seconds.
Dix, like Bolt, ran the 100 and 200 in Daegu, and the American's runner-up time of 19.70 came in his sixth race of the World Championships.
Had an equally rested Bolt run the Brussels 200 and improved as much as Dix, he'd have run 19.23 seconds. If he improved as much as Ashmeade, the time might have been 19.02 seconds. As one who believes that the tall man can break 19 seconds for 200 metres, that isn't so far-fetched.
Blake's wonderful form and this elaborate guesswork means one thing: Bolt has company in the fast lane and will need to be at his best to stay on top. He can take comfort in the knowledge that his fastest times have come in the crucible of World Championship and Olympic finals. In contrast, Blake's brilliant best came in Brussels, where only one race was required.
Bolt can't take too much comfort though. The 21-year-old world champion is a sprinter on the rise and is as well coached as he is - by guru Glen Mills - and has the potential to improve. The world is waiting to see if Bolt will succumb to the challenge or if he will respond like the champion he has always been.
It's the stuff of legends that Bolt has achieved so much with sub-optimal training habits. To reach his goal of being a legend, he must now consider changing those habits as he seeks a defence of his Olympic 100 and 200 metres titles.
Bolt and Blake hardly raced each other at all in 2011, with their only encounter ending with a false start for the tall man. If they both stay healthy, they should meet at next year's National Championships and, with the rest of the world's best, at the London Olympics. Fans everywhere will put their 2012 calendars on fast forward.
Hubert Lawrence has covered local and international athletics since 1987.