Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Jamaica's Day at Lausanne whets appetite for Bolt v Gay

Golden Spike IAAF World Athletics Tour - Ostrava

Lausanne is always one of the top spots on the European Circuit, and in spite of cool, rainy weather today was no exception. Though the weather put a damper on many events, two things were clear today - it was Jamaica's day to shine, and the match up that the world is now waiting for is Usain Bolt v Tyson Gay.

First Jamaica Day. Several of Jamaica's top sprinters have taken their share of lumps from American sprinters this year. Today revenge was served on a wet, cool platter. Starting with Olympic champion Shelly Ann Fraser in the women's 100. Fraser had already tasted defeat to Carmelilta Jeter (US) at the Pre meet this year - and was soundly beaten. Today Fraser blitzed from the blocks, a la Beijing, and in spite of a strong late race surge from Jeter, bested her rival 11.03 to 11.06.

Then it was Asafa Powell's turn. Like Fraser, Powell had been beaten twice this year by Mike Rodgers (US) this year's break through sprinter. Powell, like Fraser, blitzed the start, and ran free and clear of the field winning in a romp in 10.07. Compatriot Steve Mullings was 2nd in 10.29 with Rodgers a far back third in 10.30.

The onslaught continued with 400 hurdler Isa Phillips besting Defending World champion Kerron Clement in the stretch for an easy 48.18 to 48.51 win. With the meet ending with Kerron Stewart (JAM) running away from the women's 200 meter field in a strong negative wind to win going away in 20.72.

Now, I know that many of the US athletes just arrived in Europe and haven't gotten rid of their jet lag just yet, but those were some serious beat downs, and not the way you want to look with the World Championships just around the corner!

But the biggest win came prior to the end of the meet when Usain Bolt set sail in the 200 meters. Bolt has been running well all season, but not quite in the form that we saw him in last year. Then Tyson Gay made his seasonal sprint debut in May in the 200 meters and since then Bolt has seemed a bit more focused. How focused? Well at Jamaica champs he ran 9.86 to take the world lead and had stated prior to Lausanne that he was looking for a fast time on the friendly Lausanne track - wide turns and a bit of altitude.

In spite of rain falling and a slight negative wind, Bolt did just that, as at the gun Bolt took off as if he was running 100 meters! He made up the stagger on US 200 champion Shawn Crawford, and ran through the line a la Beijing. The result - 19.59, just behind Tyson Gay's world leading 19.58. The first time in history that two men have had 19.5 clockings! This of course has sent message boards crazy! With calls of Bolt being alien; ready for 19.1; and Tyson Gay having no chance against the Olympic champion - in short the type of talk that precludes a showdown that the sport sorely needs!

While each time one runs, his fans see invincibility, I see two exciting races shaping up Berlin. Bolt's 19.59 today in the cool and rain was certainly one of the most impressive runs I've seen. But before the hype gets too carried away, Bolt has been sprinting over 100 and 200 since Mar 14 when he ran a windy 9.93 so is obviously race sharp. Lausanne is also the most friendly 200 meter track in the world yielding times of 19.63 in '08, 19.78 in '07, and 19.63 in '06. In contrast the New York track has yielded clockings of 20.08 in '08, 19.82 in '07, and 20.09 in '06 - not as friendly turns and run much earlier in the season so athletes are not as sharp. Add the fact that this was Tyson's first sprint race of the season and done coming off base work running the 400 - his 45.57 coming three weeks prior - and what we have is another highly impressive race!

Calling either race superior at this point is a matter of conjecture as times are always "conditional" in my book, but suffice it to say that we have two supreme athletes that are headed for what could be the greatest showdown in the history of the sport!

We get our third look at Tyson Gay this year on Friday when he runs the 100 in Rome. Bolt, I know, is confirmed to run in London on the 24th. There is no match race scheduled between these two before Berlin on Aug 15, so their individual runs the next few weeks will be watched with much anticipation.

Never have we had the prospect of an Olympic champion and World champion meeting in these circumstances - both being double champions and both young and fit and in what appears to be their prime! Berlin could give us a double treat. In the meantime, as long as we get this type of performance from them both along the way, this is going to be one entertaining summer.

For full results of the Lausanne meet click here.

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