BRUSSELS (AP) — Usain Bolt’s emergence comes a few weeks late, but he brings the same old message: Catch me if you can.
There was no sign of the world and Olympic champion in the early-season races he usually runs back home in Jamaica. And sure enough, there were fears he was late with training, or worse, not fully recovered from last year’s back injury.
Not so, said agent Ricky Simms.
“Everything has gone very, very well over the winter,” Simms said. “We are looking forward to his first race in Rome” on May 26, the third of the season’s Diamond League events.
The reason for the belated start to the season is simple. The Aug. 27-Sept. 4 world championships in Daegu, South Korea, start almost two weeks later than in Berlin two years ago, and Bolt doesn’t want to peak early. Also, since the defending champion does not have to qualify for worlds through the national trials at the end of June, there is no need to peak twice in one season.
During the Kingston Jamaica Invitational over the weekend, Bolt’s training partner, Yohan Blake, impressed by running 9.80 seconds in the 100 meters. If it wasn’t for the slightly excessive 2.2 meters-per-second back wind, it would easily have topped the year’s fastest mark.
“He trains with those guys every day. So he sees where they are at, where he’s at,” Simms said in a telephone interview. “He’s happy where he is at the moment.”
Still, the triple Olympic and world champion is far from his best at this moment.
“Of course, if someone runs 9.80 he is not going to be 10 meters ahead of him,” Simms said.
He’ll probably be happy to be just a nose ahead of his next competitor when he has his first race in Rome. Bolt will take on compatriot and former world-record holder Asafa Powell and European champion Christophe Lemaitre in his first race in Italy.
While Bolt can race Powell all he wants, what most people are really looking forward to is a duel with American Tyson Gay.
In August last year, Gay produced a sizzling 100 to beat Bolt in Stockholm to end the Jamaican’s two-year unbeaten streak and prove to everyone that, on any given day, even the greatest sprinter of his time can be defeated.
Simms refers to that 100 as little more than “the race where he had a problem with his back.”
Bolt ended his season after the loss, got treatment, and started winter training in October.
A loss in a European meet is only a blip in a career laden with Olympic gold, world titles and world records.
“What happened last year has had zero effect on him. He won every race except one,” Simms said. “He is not someone who looks at the statistics or read the reports. He just does his thing. He is the only one that can put pressure on himself, and he doesn’t do that.”
And don’t bet on Bolt and Gay facing off before Daegu.
Bolt has already set his schedule, with races in Ostrava and Oslo following Rome. Many meets would not have the money to attract both stars.
It is not necessarily a bad thing, said Simms.
“You don’t want Federer-Nadal the week before Wimbledon. You don’t really want to play Manchester United-Barcelona this week if they also play the Champions League final,” Simms said.