Tag Archives: Yohan Blake

Still an Usain Bolt Show

The Jamaican Olympic Trials were a revelation.

Usain Bolt’s 100m defeat to his young training partner, Yohan Blake, came as a surprise. Blake’s commanding victory in the 200m was even more astounding. Bolt has shown chinks in armor in the century dash, owing to his inconsistent start. But in the half-lap sprint, the great Jamaican sprinter has been peerless.

Bolt en route to the 200m dash gold in Beijing. (Photo from Richard Giles)

The aforesaid losses to Blake and rumors of lingering injury, have pushed some athletics pundits to tag Blake as the prime candidate for Olympic sprinting glory.

Read: “London Olympics Preview – The 100m Dash”

Read: “London Olympics Preview – The 200m Dash”

Those views are not entirely baseless. On paper, the 2012 Bolt is a far cry from his 2009 self. The Jamaican champion’s 100m and 200m season’s bests are at 9.76s and 19.83s, respectively -light years away from his world records of 9.58s and 19.19s. Coming into the London Olympics, Blake is the world leader in both of the aforesaid events (9.75s and 19.80s).

True enough, Blake has what it takes to beat his compatriot. The 2011 100m World Champion (in the absence of a disqualified Bolt), is the third fastest in the 100m all-time list, behind Bolt and Asafa Powell. Blake has a personal best of 19.26s in the 200m a mark only bettered by Usain’s world record of 19.19s and is the only man who can challenge Bolt in the half lap sprint.

Powell, the former 100m world record, has the necessary tools edge out Bolt in the century dash. But the 30-year old has been a perennial underachiever in the major championships. Tyson Gay, the 100m and 200m World Champion from 2007, also enjoys the tag as a potential Bolt-beater. The oft-injured Gay is one of only two men to beat a post-Beijing Olympics Usain Bolt in the 100m (the other is, of course, Blake). Gay, recently recovered from a hip operation, owns the second fastest time in the 100m at 9.69s, behind Bolt’s 9.58s world record.

    

Blake (L), Gay (C), and Powell (R). (Photos from Erik van Leeuwen, Eckhard Pecher, and Jonas Witt)

Judging by the stat sheets and the results of the Jamaican Olympic Trials, a monumental collapse by Usain Bolt is in the offing.

I beg to disagree because of four important factors.

First, Bolt has the most experience amongst the four contenders. The Jamaican has won sprinting titles in Youth, Junior and Senior World Championship events. He has been competing at the highest level of sport since he was 15-years old. No other athlete, save for Russian Pole Vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva and New Zealand’s Shot Putter Valerie Adams, have shown such consistency amongst the different age groups.

And of course, Bolt is the defending Olympic Champion. Blake, Gay, and Powell have yet to win individual Olympic golds.

Second, Bolt is a freak of nature. Speed is a function of stride length and stride frequency. Bolt, with his 1.95m/ 6’5 frame, excels in both departments. No Olympic or World sprinting champion was as tall and quick as Usain Bolt.

Third, Bolt has been in similar circumstances before. As a talented youngster, Bolt owns the World Youth best and the World Junior record in the 200m. His transition to the senior ranks, however, was marked by injury and a seeming lack of focus. Despite being popular in Jamaica, he was an unknown outside immediate athletics circles. There was a lull in his career from 2003 to 2008, until the Beijing Olympics where he romped to three Olympic Gold medals.

Lastly, Bolt has the ability to dig deep. In the glitz and glamour of the short sprints, people tend to overlook the fact that Usain once excelled in the 400m dash in his younger days. As a 16-year old, the Jamaican ran 45.35s, the sixth fastest ever by a Youth athlete. Although Gay has a faster personal best than Bolt in the quarter-mile, the latter has the necessary championship pedigree in the event. In my opinion, his background in the 400m is what sets him apart from his competitors. It puts him in a vastly different mindset.

Because of his long legs, we don’t usually see Bolt get the fastest start in the short dashes. But once his pistons start firing in full throttle, the race is over – more often than not. Indeed, it takes guts and determination to snatch victory from behind.

Despite the snags of Bolt’s 2012 season, the London 2012 Olympics shall still be Usain Bolt’s one big sprinting party.

London Olympics Preview: The 4x100m Relay

The team aspect makes the 4x100m relay exciting. Since the athletes are going at full speed, the margin for error in terms of baton passing is small. Teams, especially the hastily formed ones, are susceptible to passing lapses. In the 4x100m relay, the squads with inferior aggregate flat out speeds can draw level or, at times, triumph over the highly touted teams.

Read: “The 4x100m Relay – Where Underdogs Thrive”

Photo from Nigel Chadwick

Ironically, a larger country such as the U.S. could get disadvantaged because of its depth of talent. Having a large pool, with the uncertainty of the U.S. Olympic Trials providing the suspense, do not exactly provide ample time for teams to prepare. The smaller countries have, more or less, determined its relay lineups months before a major competition.

Women’s 4x100m Relay

The Americans have run two of the fastest 4x100m relay times this season (42.19s, 42.24s), followed by the Germans (42.51s – Leena Günther, Anne Cibis, Tatjana Pinto, Verena Sailer) and the Ukrainians (42.61s –  Nataliya Pohrebnyak Наталія Погребняк, Mariya Ryemyen, Olesya Povh Олеся Повх, Viktorya Pyatachenko). Netherlands (42.80s – Kadene Vassell, Dafne Schippers, Eva Lubbers, Jamile Samuel), Poland (43.06s – Marika Popowicz, Daria Korczynska, Marta Jeschke, Ewelina Ptak), and France (43.12s – Carima Louami, Ayodelé Ikuesan, Jennifer Galais, Christine Arron) are the next fastest countries. The Jamaicans are few rungs lower with a season’s best of 43.31s.

In terms of the Olympic qualifying period, which stretched from January 2011 to July 2012, the Carribean sprinting power is second on the list (average of 41.97s) behind the Americans (41.75s). Ukraine (42.57s average), France (42.65s average), Germany (42.77s average), and Nigeria (42.84s) round up the next four.

Screenshot from the IAAF

The defending Olympic Champion, Russia (Evgeniya Polyakova Евгения  Полякова, Ekaterina Kuzina, Ekaterina Voronenkova, Olga Belkina), is eight on the list with an average time of 42.86s.

On paper, the lead U.S. and Jamaica are the strongest contenders for gold. Its respective lineups are peppered with a multitude of individual sprinting talent in the likes of Carmelita Jeter, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Allyson Felix, and Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce.

Read: “London Olympics Preview – The 100m Dash”

Read: “London Olympics Preview – The 200m Dash”

Jamaica has won Olympic gold only once, in 2004. The Jamaican women lost out on a potential gold in Beijing when they failed to finish the race. The Americans are historically the dominant force in the event, winning nine gold medals since the 1928 Paris Olympics. However, their last Olympic title came in 1996. Like the Jamaicans, the Americans have been bedeviled by erratic baton passing in the last two editions of the Games.

The Americans are the reigning World Champions, while the Jamaicans are the victors from Berlin.

Once Jamaica and the United States get their acts together, and pass their respective batons efficiently and with minimal loss of speed, these two countries are unbeatable.

If the two sprinting powerhouses commit lapses, Ukraine and Germany are the most likely to capitalize. The Ukrainians have world class sprinters in Olesya Povh and Mariya Ryemyen, while the Germans are led by the comebacking Verena Sailer. The Ukrainian and German teams have the benefit of competing at a relatively recent major championships, whereas the Jamaicans and Americans  last big meet was the World Championships in Daegu. The confidence level of the Germans, in particular, are at record-highs in light of their smashing win in Helsinki.

Top Three Predictions:

Gold: United States

Silver: Jamaica

Bronze: Germany/Ukraine

Men’s 4x100m Relay

In the men’s division, the Jamaican gap over the Americans is glaring. The Jamaicans have an average time of 37.54s to the Americans’ 37.85s. Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, and Yohan Blake are all set to compete in London. Barring any unforseen hitches, Jamaica looks poised to win back-to-back Olympic golds.

The Americans have dominated this event, having triumphed 15 times in the last 22 Olympic Games. Their record in major championships of late has not been as immaculate. The error-prone Americans narrowly missed the gold in Athens to an inspired British team. In Beijing, the American quartet crashed out of the preliminary rounds. They crashed out of the Berlin World Championships, disqualified for an illegal baton exchange. Daegu could have been a lot better, had it not been for the unfortunate collision between Briton Harry Aikenes-Aryeetey and American Doc Patton.

Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin will banner the American challenge. Gay and Gatlin, both former World titlists and the latter an Olympic Champion, will bring maturity and experience into the squad.

France (38.29s average –  Teddy Tinmar, Christophe Lemaitre, Yannick Lesourd, Jimmy Vicaut) Olympic hosts Great Britain (38.32s average), Trinidad and Tobago (38.40s average –  Keston Bledman, Marc Burns, Aaron Armstrong, Richard Thompson), and Brazil (38.41s average – Ailson Feitosa, Sandro Viana, Nilson Andrè, Bruno de Barros) are the next fastest countries. Interestingly, the 10th ranked Hong Kong relay team (38.59s average – Tang Yik Chun, Lai Chun Ho 黎振浩, Ng Ka Fung, Tsui Chi Ho) is ahead of Canada (38.64s – Ian Warner, Oluseyi Smith, Jared Connaughton, Justyn Warner), Italy (38..65s average – Simone Collio, Jacques Riparelli, Davide Manenti, Fabio Cerutti), and the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Japan (38.68s average – Masashi Eriguchi, Ryota Yamagata 山縣 亮太, Shinji Takahira, Kenji Fujimitsu).

Read: “Japan’s Olympic Bronze”

Screenshot from the IAAF

Outside the top two countries, France is the standout talent. The French are led by the duo of Christophe Lemaitre and Jimmy Vicaut, both 100m dash finalists in Daegu. Lemaitre is a World Championships 200m dash bronze medalist.

The Olympic hosts will also send an experienced team, with Mark Lewis-Francis and Dwain Chambers leading the charge. Lewis-Francis is the only holdover from the gold medal winning squad in Athens. The talented youngster Adam Gemili will be around to give much-needed firepower.

As much as I would love to see Britain win gold again or the Americans break their Olympic drought, the Jamaicans are much too dominant.

Top Three Predictions:

Gold: Jamaica

Silver: United States

Bronze: France

Sources:

IAAF – Olympic Relay Lineups

Wikipedia

IAAF

London Olympics Preview: The 100m Dash

The Blue Riband event is the centerpiece of the Olympics. The athlete who wins the gold is dubbed as the world’s fastest man or woman.

Photo from Nigel Chadwick

Women’s 100m Dash

Until the Jamaican Olympic trials last June, Carmelita Jeter has been comfortably perched as the 2012 world leader. Jeter ran 10.81s at the same blue track in Kingston where the Jamaican trials were held.

A month later, the defending Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce demolished the American’s erstwhile 2012 standard. Fraser-Pryce ran a personal best, as she stopped the clock at 10.70s. Veronica Campbell-Brown came second at 10.82s.

 

Fraser-Pryce (L) and Jeter (R). Photos from Erik van Leeuwen and André Zehetbauer

Trinidadian Kelly-Ann Baptiste (10.86s) and Allyson Felix (10.92s) trails Campbell-Brown. Kerron Stewart (10.94s), Tianna Madison (10.96s), Murielle Ahoure (11.00s), and Blessing Okagbare (11.01s) occupy prominent positions in the top list.

The European challenge will be top billed by the comebacking Ivet Lalova Ивет Лалова (11.06s SB) and the mercurial Olesya Povh Олеся Повх (11.08s), who finished 1-2 at the European Championships in Helsinki.

   

Felix (L), Baptiste (C), and Stewart (R). Photos from Erik van Leeuwen

With the London Games barely two weeks away, the Jamaicans and the Americans are sure to figure in tough battle for gold.

The 25-year old Fraser-Pryce, fresh from setting lifetime bests in the 100m and the 200m, is at her prime. Jeter is six years older than the Jamaican Olympic Champion, but is coming into the Games as the reigning World Champion. the powerful American has a personal best of 10.64s from 2009. the second fastest behind Florence Griffith-Joyner’s 10.49s world record.

Stewart (10.75s, 2009), Campbell-Brown (10.76s, 2011), and Lalova (10.77s, 2004) are all sub-10.80s sprinters at their respective bests. Felix (10.92s, 2012) could figure in the fight for the podium as well, as long as she does not get left behind at the blocks.

My pick for gold is the defending champion, Fraser-Pryce. She has the momentum and she seems to be peaking just in time for London.

Top Three Predictions:

Gold: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce

Silver: Carmelita Jeter

Bronze: Allyson Felix

Men’s 100m Dash

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Yohan Blake and Tyson Gay are the only ones capable of beating an in-form Usain Bolt. Former World record holder Asafa Powell has the necessary speed and breakneck start, but he just does not possess the mental toughness to live up to his potential in major championships.

   

Bolt (L), Gay (C), and Blake (R). Photos from Erik van Leeuwen [Bolt and Blake] and Eckhard Pecher [Gay])

True enough, Blake has inflicted back-to-back defeats in the 100m and 200m to his training partner, both at the Jamaican Olympic Trials. Gay triumphed over Bolt at the DN Galan in Stockholm back in 2010.

The fight for gold will be three-pronged between Bolt, Blake, and Gay, should the latter be able to find the spring in his legs again. Justin Gatlin is the dark horse. Coming from his two-year doping ban, he has a lot to prove and is intent on making his comeback complete by winning Olympic gold.

Gatlin wins the 2012 World Indoor 60m Dash title. (Photo from Erik van Leeuwen)

Blake (9.75s) and Bolt (9.76s) are the two fastest this year. The 2004 Athens Olympic Champion, Justin Gatlin, is in top form as he set a personal best of 9.80s en route to topping the tough U.S. Olympic Trials. Powell (9.85s), Keston Bledman (9.86s), and Gay (9.86s) round up the next three.

Watch out for the tall and powerful Ryan Bailey. Bailey finished third at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, setting a personal best of 9.93s.

 

Collins (L) and Lemaitre (R). Photos from André Zehetbauer and Erik van Leeuwen)

I’d love to see Kim Collins (10.05s SB) replicate his podium finish in Daegu, but the 2003 World Champion has not gone below the 10-second barrier this season. The French duo of Christophe Lemaitre (10.04s SB) and Jimmy Vicaut (10.07s SB) could once again barge into the final. Britain’s new sprinting talent, Adam Gemili (10.05s PB/SB), looks poised to make a mark as well.

I’m rooting for an injury-free Gay to finally wrest the Olympic 100m dash title. As the second fastest of all-time over the distance (9.69s), he has what it takes to come out on top. The youthfully exuberant Blake has the psychological edge, in the wake of his emphatic wins over Bolt.

If the world’s greatest sprinter gets his act together in London, the rest of the field – Gay and Blake included – will be competing only for the lesser medals.

Top Three Predictions:

Gold: Usain Bolt

Silver: Tyson Gay/Yohan Blake

Bronze: Justin Gatlin

Sources:

IAAF

Wikipedia

Thoughts on Bolt’s 100m Dash Loss

Young Yohan Blake defeated training partner Usain Bolt at the Jamaican Olympic Trials. Blake, the 2011 100m dash World Champion, shaved off a staggering seven-hundredths of a second off his personal best to convincingly win over the World 100m and 200m record holder. Blake stopped the clock in 9.75s to Bolt’s 9.86s. Asafa Powell was third in 9.88s.

The powerful Powell had a cracking start. The former world record holder actually led the field until the 60 meter mark, when Blake turned on his afterburners. Even Bolt’s usually dominating finish proved insufficient to turn the race into his favor. Although Bolt pipped Powell at the tape, by two-hundredths of a second, Blake scored a convincing victory.

This was Bolt’s first loss in the 100m dash since Tyson Gay beat him in Stockholm back in 2010.

Read: “Thunder Bolt”

Usain has shown chinks in his armor the past few races. At the Ostrava Golden Spike meeting this year, he ran a little over 10 seconds after a lackluster start. Although he has run the two fastest times in history (9.58s and 9.69s), other talented albeit slower sprinters are ready to pounce once Bolt lets down his guard.

Bolt at his best is practically unbeatable in the half-lap sprint. The 100m dash is a different ballgame altogether, considering the fact that the comebacking Gay had run 9.69s in the past. Powell (9.72s), despite his penchant for choking, has the necessary speed to edge out Bolt. With Blake’s victory in Kingston, a talented and confident challenger comes to fore.

Click here to view the 100m dash all-time list

Gay, Powell, and Blake has what it takes to beat Bolt in London.

Bolt’s loss at the hands of his training partner, as well as the near-missed he has had this season, could be beneficial in his defense of his Olympic titles. Bolt, after all, is human. He is no stranger to finishing second fiddle, having had a forgettable string of seasons prior to his breakout performance at the Beijing Olympics.

Usain Bolt, like the champion that he is, shall learn from this losing experience.

Britain’s Got [Sprinting] Talent

Adam Gemili sure is impressive. He lowered his 2011 personal best in the 100m dash by a massive 0.27s, when he ran 10.08s in Regensburg yesterday. He has already hurdled the Olympic “A” standard and is the fastest Briton this Olympic season. He had beaten his older and more illustrious compatriots, among them 2004 Olympic 4x100m relay gold medalist Mark Lewis-Francis (10.21s) and 2010 World Indoor champion Dwain Chambers (10.28s).

Read: “Sprinter Gemili says: I’m raring to go for the Olympics”

The former footballer has run the fastest 100m time this year by a junior. In the all-time juniors 100m list, only fourteen men had run quicker (Trinidadian Darrel Brown holds the World Junior record of 10.01s). Gemili is in good company, with Justin Gatlin also running 10.08s as a junior. In fact, the young Briton has bettered such fine names like Francis Obikwelu (10.10s) and, believe it or not, Yohan Blake (10.11s).

Interestingly, the British are well-represented in this list, with Lewis-Francis (9.97s, albeit with a malfunctioning wind gauge) and Chambers (10.06s) occupying prominent spots. With such depth of sprinting talent, it’s quandary why British men have been left out of the Olympic 100m dash final in the last two editions of the games.

Gemili still has to finish in the top two at the British Olympic trials, for him to earn an outright slot in the century dash. The prospects for the host nation’s relay team looks bright, with the resurgent Lewis-Francis, the brooding Chambers, and the talented Gemili in the spot light. It would take a minor miracle for the British, or the Americans for that matter, to beat an in-form Jamaican quartet in the 4x100m. Against such quality opposition, a medal of any color will be god-sent for the hosts.

French Athletics Commentators Rock!

As a hardcore athletics junkie, I satiate most of my track & field cravings through Youtube. Aside from the times when Eurosport Asia airs the Diamond League or a high-level European meet, I have to settle for clips uploaded on the popular video streaming site. Since athletics is a predominantly European sport, the broadcasters I encounter come from a hodgepodge of countries.

Amongst the myriad of languages, I prefer the French commentary over the rest (after the English feed, of course). In the countless times I’ve watched athletics clips online, the French almost always stand out for their unbridled passion and sheer excitement. The British and American pundits tend to be more restrained. The French seem more animated, at some point even shouting with much fervor (please watch the clips below).

Perhaps my preference for French stem from its exoticism to my English-reared ears. See and hear for yourself. Be the judge!

* For consistency, I chose the 2011 Daegu World Championships Men’s 100m dash final.

1.) French:

Read more of this post

Blake takes gold as Bolt crashes out

With Eurosport Asia not airing the ongoing Daegu World Championships, I had to content myself with stop-motion live streaming (I have crappy internet connection), live tweets and the IAAF live updates.

I was browsing the aforesaid information sources when I learned about the unthinkable: Usain Bolt has been disqualified for false starting. Some people opined that the starter held out too long, but frankly I couldn’t see what was wrong. Bolt went out of the blocks too early. It was as clear as daylight.

Read: “The disqualification of Bolt”

Young Yohan Blake took up the cudgels for Jamaica, as he crossed the line in 9.93s. The fast-starting Kim Collins (the oldest 100m dash World Champ finalist since Linford Christie) actually led the race until the halfway mark, when the fast-finishing duo of Blake and the American champion, Walter Dix, ate up the 2003 World Champion’s lead.

Christophe Lemaitre (10.19s) was a tenth behind Collins. Antigua’s Daniel Bailey (10.26s) edged out the 19-year old Frenchman, Jimmy Vicaut (10.27s) for fifth place.

It was great to see Collins back on the podium! He had shown promise at the start of the year, but got injured soon after. With this unexpected third place finish, the pride of St. Kitts and Nevis now has three bronze medals (100mD – 2005, 200mD – 2001) on top of his 100m dash World Championship gold  – spanning ten years!

Although I’m far from an Usain Bolt fanatic, seeing the iconic Jamaican sprinter crash out is disappointing. Some would argue about scrapping the new rule altogether, that the one-false start rule is just way too harsh. Unlike swimming, restarting a sprint race isn’t all that hard. The previous rule (which imposed a warning to the entire field) was sufficient, to say the least. Athletes and race officials are human; hence, susceptible to mistakes.

But then again, rules are rules.

Additional link:

Race results

Blake Eludes Fast-finishing Lemaitre in Montreuil

Christophe Lemaitre scalped a handful of formidable foes during the Meeting International d’Athlétisme in Montreuil a few days back. The 2010 European double sprint champion almost pipped Jamaica’s Yohan Blake (9.95s) at the line, losing by one-hundredth of a second to Usain Bolt’s training partner. Blake is a 2008 Olympic 4x100m relay gold medalist and has a wind-aided personal best of 9.80s.

Lemaitre had a good start en route to lowering his own French national record to 9.95s. Trinidad and Tobago’s Daniel Bailey was third at 10.00s. Lemaitre’s European rival, Dwain Chambers, trailed in fourth place (10.09s).

Read the IAAF article here

Is it just me, or has Christophe Lemaitre improved on his sprinting form? Lemaitre’s noticeable side-to-side wobbling seemed to have lessened. Try to compare Lemaitre’s sprinting form in Montreuil with his 10.26s run in Kawasaki last September. See for yourself!

Never mind the fact that Lemaitre is the first sub-10 sprinter of non-West African descent. The Frenchman is a relatively raw sprinting talent that has tremendous potential. A 9.96s time in the century dash for a 20-year old is a fine performance indeed.

Despite being light-years away from the eye-popping 100m dash times of the Jamaicans and Americans, it will be interesting to see a competitive European amongst the top 8 of the blue riband effect come the Daegu World Championships.

Bolt streaks to world-leading 9.82s

Three-time Olympic Gold medallist Usain Bolt storms to a world-leading 100m time of 9.82s at the Lausanne Athletissima Diamond League on Thursday, tying compatriot Asafa Powell’s mark. The Lightning Bolt overcame a 6-week layover from a troublesome achilles tendon to outclass the field. The closest sprinters were fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake at 9.96s and Netherlands Antilles’ Churandy Martina at 10.16s.

Bolt, following his doctors’ advice, opted out of the 200m dash in Lausanne to err on the safe side, in light of his recent injury.

It’s refreshing to see the exuberant Bolt back on track. Watch out for the upcoming Bolt-Powell race on 16 July in Paris. It’s gonna be epic!

Additional links:

Universal Sports video

Universal Sports article

Diamond League report

Photo credits:

Yahoo News

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