KINGSTON, Jamaica — The Fastest Man in the World wasn’t the fastest man in Jamaica on Friday night.
That honor goes to Yohan Blake, who got out of the blocks fast and finished the 100-meter final in 9.75 seconds to upset world-record holder Usain Bolt by 0.11 seconds in the Jamaican Olympic trials.
A shocker? Well, that’s for the world to decide. One thing for sure, however, is that the calculus for the London Olympics has changed dramatically.
Blake is the reigning world champion but that victory, last year in South Korea, came with an asterisk because Bolt didn’t run that night after being disqualified for a false start. This was their first rematch, their first real race since then. Bolt was considered the favorite, not only because of his world record — 9.58 seconds — but because Blake, his training partner had never run below 9.82 in his life.
Well, now, he has.
The 9.75 seconds goes down as the best time this year and also breaks the four-year-old National Stadium record; both marks were 9.76 — both held by Bolt.
As much as the numbers, though, it was all that daylight between Blake and Bolt at the finish line that told this story. Blake, the man known as “The Beast,” let out a primal scream when he crossed. Bolt just sort of pulled up — no “To the World” pose or anything else to celebrate.
Asafa Powell will join them at the Olympics, after finishing in 9.88.
In the women’s 100, defending Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce won in a Jamaican record 10.70 seconds, with Veronica Campbell-Brown in second and Kerron Stewart in third.
Campbell-Brown provided the surprise at last year’s trials when she finished fourth in the final and didn’t make the 100-meter field.
She ended up winning the 200 at trials and the Olympics and is very much in line for a double this time, as well.
So are Blake and Bolt.
It was widely believed Blake might provide a better challenge to Bolt in the 200 because he holds the world’s second-fastest time at 19.26. Bolt’s record is 19.19. They’ll run in heats Saturday with the final scheduled for Sunday.
But in track’s most glamorous event, the 100, it’s Blake who heads to London with the win.
US Olympic Trials
EUGENE, Ore. — Maybe the response just slipped. Or maybe the question completely caught her off guard.
As Allyson Felix sauntered away from the crowd and toward the safety of a restricted area, she actually broke her vow of silence.
“Feeling good,” she said in almost a hushed voice. And then she was off again, escorted by coach Bobby Kersee.
Felix is looking solid on the track even in the midst of controversy, winning her semifinal heat at Olympic trials on Friday.
Same with training partner Jeneba Tarmoh, who moments earlier captured her race convincingly, too.
After the 200 final Saturday, these two sprinters will finally address what everyone is anxious to know: Just how they will break their third-place tie in the 100 and decide who earns the final spot to the London Games in the event.
A runoff? A flip of the coin?
Soon, there will be a choice. Maybe even something as simple as one of them surrendering the spot to the other.
The controversy has overshadowed everything at the trials.
Including this: Some of the biggest names in U.S. sprinting were missing from the starting blocks in the opening round of the men’s 200 meters. Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay were expected to sit out this race after securing spots to London in the 100.
But the absence of Olympic bronze medalist Walter Dix was a bit of a surprise. Dix was hampered by a lingering left hamstring injury that slowed him in the 100, but he thought he might be ready for the 200.
Now, Dix’s only option for making it to London will be as a member of the 400 relay team.
Dix tweeted his disappointment Friday at not being able to run and later that he heard he had been nominated for an ESPY Award in the category of best track and field athlete: “It’s an honor!!! Thanx for the love and support…very much appreciated.”
This was one of the sprinters the Americans were counting on, too, especially after Dix captured bronze in both the 100 and 200 in Beijing.
“We’re missing Tyson, Walter and Justin — that’s U.S. best right there,” said 34-year-old Doc Patton, who advanced in his heat. “The door is open for anyone in the field right now.”
That’s one way to look at it. The other is the road to gold may have just gotten a whole lot easier for Jamaican sensation Usain Bolt, the world-record holder who looked so dominant in Beijing and really has no one — other than perhaps training partner Yohan Blake — to push him in the 200.
Wallace Spearmon had the fastest 200 time in the prelims, showing he’s rounding back into form. Spearmon has been bothered recently by a sore left Achilles tendon.
“It’s the first round. You’re not supposed to run that hard,” Spearmon said. “It was a good run.”
In the only finals on Friday, University of Colorado standout Emma Coburn won the steeplechase and Jillian Camarena-Williams captured the shot put crown.
But these days and at these trials, the overriding topic is the one involving Felix and Tarmoh. Just how they’re going to settle the matter is something that’s now been hanging over the competition for the last week.
USA Track and Field didn’t have any procedure in place to break the dead heat. Immediately after the 100 race last Saturday, the organization quickly scrambled to put together some options for the athletes.
The sprinters have elected to not say anything until after the 200. That way, they can focus on making the team in that event.
Only, Felix blabbed — if two words can be considered that.
Usually so polite and always open to talk, Felix has been hurried away by Kersee the past two days. He’s highly protective of both his sprinters, also whisking away Tarmoh with an arm around her shoulder.
But maybe Kersee is softening, too, with the resolution so close. As he ushered Felix away, he was asked how Felix is looking.
Without even turning around, Kersee raised his right arm and gave a thumbs-up.
All the attention may be on Tarmoh and Felix heading into the final, but they have some pretty tenacious competition. Carmelita Jeter will be a factor along with Sanya Richards-Ross, who won the 400 earlier at trials. She keeps getting stronger with every round.
“I felt good. My body felt really good,” Richards-Ross said after turning in the top time of 22.15 seconds in the semis. “Yesterday I was little tight and today I felt fresh.
“Hopefully, tomorrow I’ll go even faster and put together another great race to win it.”
Hyleas Fountain leads the heptathlon after the first day of competition, while reigning Olympic champion Angelo Taylor had the top time in the semis of the 400 hurdles. The qualifying round of the 110 hurdles went as expected with Aries Merritt, Jason Richardson, David Oliver and David Payne all advancing.
“There were some nerves involved and I just have to stay focused,” Merritt said.