Usain Bolt blamed his 100-meter defeat by Justin Gatlin in the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) Diamond League meeting in Rome yesterday on having too good a start.
The double Olympic 100-meter champion, whose early season has been hampered by a hamstring problem, had the fastest reaction time of the field, but was overhauled by the American in the closing half of the race, finishing in 9.95 seconds, one hundredth of a second behind the winner.
“I think it was the fact that I got a good start that threw me off,” said the 26-year-old Jamaican, whose only previous race this season, in the Cayman Islands, saw him struggle to win with a time of 10.09. “I got the perfect start, but five steps in I stumbled. It was one of those things – I guess I’ll have to do my strength work on this. I think it’s just time to get it back together. This season for some reason it goes right back to ground zero. The good start threw me a little bit, then it got all over the place. It was just not me.”
It was Bolt’s first major international reverse since he was disqualified for false-starting at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu, although his Olympic season started with defeats over 100 and 200m by compatriot Yohan Blake at the Jamaican trials.
In Diamond League terms, it was Bolt’s first defeat since he lost to Tyson Gay over 100 meter in Stockholm, a race that marked the end of his 2010 season.
“I would say my determination is not as much as it used to be,” Bolt added. “You have to try to find things to motivate you and to push yourself harder. Starting the season was the roughest part for me – trying to drive myself. I am taking my time and working my way there. It has been really crazy since the Olympics. It has been hard for me to get everything together because there are more demands, it is tough.”
He will now turn his attention to next Thursday’s (June 13) IAAF Diamond League meeting in Oslo, where he will run over his favorite distance, the 200 meter.
“I’ve been doing a lot of work on my 200 because my coach says I need one to see where I am, so I am looking forward to going out there and doing my best,” Bolt said.
Gatlin, 31, has been unbeaten this season over 100 meter, having won at the Diamond League meetings in Doha and Eugene, where he ran 9.88 last weekend.
The American’s race-sharpness was evident as he moved past the strangely laboring figure two lanes inside him in lane four.
“It feels good,” said the controversial 2004 Olympic champion, who had talked the talk before this race. “Usain Bolt is a great competitor and a great champion, so to come out here and have a victory it just shows that I’m having a good season so far. It’s about the dogfight. It’s not about running 9.6., 97 at this particular time, it’s about putting on a great show on for the fans and I’m pleased we did that.”
“You can never count out Usain, because he lost both races at his nationals last year and he came back and was the Olympic champion in both races, so you can never count him out,” Gatlin added. “You just have to go in there with a great race strategy and hope it works.”
But, Gatlin has been widely criticized, having served a two-year doping ban in 2001 and a four year-ban for another failed test in 2006.
Although he did not mention Gatlin by name, minutes after the race Britain’s 2012 Olympic champion long jumper Greg Rutherford tweeted: “An athlete I will never clap, congratulate or even smile at won a race tonight. Shouldn’t even be there.”
British Olympic gold medalist Darren Campbell also criticized Gatlin following his victory.
“It’s very uncomfortable when you think Justin Gatlin has been caught for drugs twice and here he is beating the great Usain Bolt,” Campbell said. “That is why Usain Bolt has been so important for our sport. He has shown that what athletes do sometimes is super-human. We are watching people perform super-human things and we hate the fact when people have cheated to do that.”
The other upset of the night occurred in the women’s 200m, where Olympic champion Allyson Felix was a distant second in 22.64 behind the US-based Ivory Coast athlete Murielle Ahoure, who set a national record of 22.38.
Contact the writer of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org. Inside the Games is an online blog of the London Organizing Committee that staged the 2012 London Games. The blog continues to cover issues that are important to the Olympic Movement. This article is reprinted here with permission of the blog editors.