Usain Bolt dismisses poor form and focuses on defence of world titles
By Anna Kessel in Oslo
Wednesday 8 June 2011
The world champion sprinter Usain Bolt has dismissed speculation that he is struggling this season, and said that all that matters is that he defends his world titles in South Korea in August.
"It doesn't bother me," the triple world record holder said. "Even if I lose every race before the world championships it doesn't matter to me, I'm just trying to get my form back together and my technique together and just get back to the old Usain Bolt. That's the aim and it doesn't matter what people say because I'm just focused on one thing and that's the world championships. That's all I'm focused on and I'm going to get it right."
The 24-year-old Jamaican, who will run in the 200 metres at the Diamond League meeting in Oslo on Thursday, has been struggling to return to the form with which he set world records in 2008 and 2009. Last year proved difficult as he ended the season with a defeat by his arch-rival, Tyson Gay, and suffered a back problem that left him unable to compete for almost 10 months. This season Bolt won his first two races over 100m narrowly, in Rome and Ostrava, in identical times of 9.91sec. That is well below his usual capabilities.
For once Bolt is behind the rest of the world. The American Gay has run the fastest time in the world this year, 9.79sec, and Jamaica's Steve Mullings and the American Mike Rodgers are joint second with 9.80sec. Mullings has run faster than Bolt on two other occasions.
Bolt said he would not feel any nerves on Thursday when he tackles the 200m for the first time in more than a year. "I'm never nervous in the 200m," he said. "I'm much more comfortable in the 200m because I've been training for years." Still, all eyes will be on how the man who ran 19.19sec in 2009 handles his season debut.
Another Jamaican, the 21-year-old Nickel Ashmeade, tops this season's 200m rankings with 19.95sec. In a poor field in Oslo – only the Norwegian Saidy Ndure has broken 20sec – Bolt cannot rely on being pushed to a fast time.
Among the crowd in the Bislett Stadium will be the former Olympic and world champion Donovan Bailey. The Canadian believes that this is a crucial moment, in which Bolt's rivals have a chance to establish an advantage.
"What the other athletes should now do is say, 'Oh man, he's running 9.90, maybe I've got a chance," Bailey said. "They need to take their chance now." But Bailey also warned that Bolt's vulnerability would only last for a short time.
"Usain, one on one with anybody [at the world championships], he will crush them. Even if he's not properly fit, in a four-round competition he will get fit during the rounds. If he can run 9.58, then all he has to do is run a 10th slower to win."