Usain Bolt runs season’s fastest 200 in Paris

Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, right, stretches out to win the men’s 200-meter race, during the Athletics Diamond League meeting at Stade de France stadium, in Saint Denis, north of Paris, Saturday, July 6, 2013. Other sprinters are from left: Jamaican Warren Weir, France’s Christophe Lemaitre, Jamaican Nickel Ashmeade.
AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere

PARIS (AP) — Forget for a moment the laid-back, fun-loving Usain Bolt. Even when he’s winning the six-time Olympic champion is finding fault with his running these days.

The Jamaican sprinter gave himself a grade of 7 out of 10 after running the fastest 200 meters of the season Saturday with a time of 19.73 seconds at the Areva Diamond League meet in Paris.

Bolt shaved 0.01 second off the previous best time this year, set by American sprinter Tyson Gay at the U.S. trials last month.

“I think I could have run the last 50 after the turn much better,” Bolt said. “I didn’t come in the straight as powerful as I used to. The last 30 meters, I was kind of, I won’t say struggling, but my technique wasn’t perfect.”

Fellow Jamaican Warren Weir was second in 19.92, ahead of former European champion Christophe Lemaitre in 20.07.

“The time, I think I could have done better,” Bolt said. “I wanted to do better, but it’s just one of those things you never get but you wish for sometimes.”

Bolt broke the meet record of 20.01 seconds set by Michael Johnson in 1990. But he said he still has plenty to work ahead of the world championships in August.

“First, I think I should have run faster on the curve,” he said. “My first 50 was great. But then, for some strange reason, my last 50 wasn’t so great. So I just need to figure what went wrong and then work on it.”

However, Bolt laughed off suggestions that he was past his prime after losing to American sprinter Justin Gatlin in the 100 of the Golden Gala meet last month in Rome.

“I lost one 100 meters, a lot of people are making a big deal of it,” Bolt said. “It doesn’t really bother me. All I have to do is just train. The same people in that lane beside me, if he’s one of them, then I’ll get it right that I’m a championship person. I’m not worried.”

Bolt will next compete in the 100 and 4×100 relay in London on July 26-27 in a one-year anniversary event for the 2012 Olympics. That will be his final major meeting before the worlds, which start Aug. 10.

In other events at the Areva meet, the ninth leg in the Diamond League circuit, Olympic champion Kirani James of Grenada clocked a world-leading 43.96 in the men’s 400, beating Americans LaShawn Merritt (44.09) and Tony McQuay (44.84).

“Today in comparison with previous races, I had a little bit better first 200,” James said. “You need to always pay attention to runners like LaShawn. If he would be too far ahead, it would be tough to beat him.”

James caught Merritt in the backstretch before running away on the final straight.

“I could have done better,” Merritt said. “Some parts of my race were slower than they should be. But I will correct it. To win in Moscow, I need to use my speed. That is the key.”

Merritt won gold at the 2008 Olympics and the world title in 2009 before completing a 21-month suspension for failing doping test.

Three-time Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia ran 14:23.68 in the women’s 5,000, also a world-leading time this season.

Reigning world champion Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenya ran the fastest 3,000 steeplechase this year in 7:59.03. In that same race, Frenchman Mahiedine Mekhissi Benabbad set a new European record with a time of 8:00.09.

In the women’s 100, Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce held off a late charge from Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria to win by one hundredth of a second in 10.92. U.S. champion English Gardner finished a distant fifth in 11.13.

World record-holder Aries Merritt of the United States led from start to finish to win the men’s 110 hurdles in 13.09. Frenchman Pascal Martinot-Lagarde came second in 13.12, edging third-place American David Oliver (13.13).

Olympic champion Anna Chicherova of Russia leaped 2.01 at her first attempt to take the women’s high jump, three centimeters higher than U.S. champion Brigetta Barrett in second and former world champion Blanka Vlasic of Croatia in third.

The next Diamond League meet is in Monaco on July 19.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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