Now we officially have a sprint rivalry with Tyson Gay’s defeat of Usain Bolt (9.84 to 9.97) in the Swedish city of Stockholm. It was Bolt’s first defeat over the distance since July 22, 2008 when he lost to countryman Asafa Powell on this same track. It was also Gay’s first win over Bolt, although they had only met over this distance on two other occasions. A stat that has gone somewhat under the radar as Bolt has run roughshod over the rest of the world over the past two seasons.
With Usain Bolt setting three WRs in the event over the past two seasons (9.72, 9.69 & 9.58) and winning both the Olympic and World titles over the distance, many had come to think of Bolt as unbeatable. And quite frankly, his showings under the bright lights on the big stages of Beijing and Berlin gave a pretty good indication that he just might be Superman, as he obliterated both his competitors and the world record on each occasion. Unfortunately, as I have lamented on several occasions, head to heads against the world’s top dash men – currently Bolt, Gay, and Asafa Powell – are nearly as rare as blue diamonds. So with Bolt and Gay meeting only once in ‘08 and once in ‘09 over their careers, Bolt’s dominance has been defined by his Championship wins – the second in Berlin over Gay – not by a series of wins over his main rivals.
But Gay has quietly been demonstrating that he does have the goods to get it done – with a series of sub 9.80 runs of his own over the past two seasons that included a sizzling 9.69 AR that came courtesy of a poor start. And it is there that Bolt has excelled in his two previous victories over Gay, and where Gay turned the tables in Stockholm – at the start. On many occasions when previewing sprint match ups that feature strong finishers I have stated that it is the first 30 meters that typically decides the race. And Bolt and Gay are two of the strongest finishers the planet has ever seen.
In their first meeting in New York in 2008, Gay nailed the start of the race – but the race was called back due to a false start. On the second go it was Bolt that nailed the start and held off Gay with a new WR 9.72 (Gay 9.85). Gay showed that he too could run in that range at the Olympic Trials the following month with 9.77, 9.68w clockings of his own. But fell to injury in the 200 and was unable to make the 100 final in Beijing – won by Bolt in a WR 9.69. Both went into Berlin with fast season’s bests – Bolt 9.79, Gay 9.77. And though there was talk of Gay’s groin injury, the real story was told in the first 30 meters of the race as Bolt was the fastest man in the race to 30 and never looked back as he passed the line in his WR 9.58 (Gay runner up in 9.71).
So Gay had performed well against Bolt in both previous meetings, but you can’t give up ANY ground to Bolt early and hope to run him down. Just as, prior to Stockholm, all but Bolt knew that they could not give up any ground to Gay early and hope to run HIM down. Stockholm solidified the race model that neither Bolt nor Gay can be allowed to get in front early, as both have far too much top end speed to be run down – even by each other.
To their credit both men were gracious following the race. Bolt stating that it just wasn’t his day. Gay saying he wanted to defeat Bolt when he was at his best – as Bolt has had some injury issues this season. Of course Gay has had some injury issues of his own, and I applaud BOTH athletes for stepping to the track and running the race. Because that has been missing in the sprints – warriors going head to head in spite of not being 100%.
Bolt may take the next one, or even the next couple. Then again Tyson may turn the trick yet again. The one thing I can say with confidence is that the winner will be determined in the first 30 meters. With the man that passes that mark first fairly sure to win it. I’m looking forward to as many of their races as we can get.
By the way, there were other goings on in Stockholm. It just seems that the “Showdown” was the only event in town. And looking quite dominant was Bershawn Jackson as he demolished the 400H field. Jackson has gone back to a 15 step pattern and has shown that this event is all about rhythm as he has gotten himself into a zone! Today’s win in 47.65 put him well ahead of second place (48.50). It was Jackson’s 4th run under 48.00 this season – the entire world only had 3 in 2009. Jackson is beginning to churn out quality races like Edwin Moses and Kevin Young – the previous and current WR holders. At his current rate “Batman” is going to be hard to beat come Daegu.
While not turning in dominant performances, Chris Solinsky is beginning to look like a serious competitor over 5/10K. The world leader this year in the 10000 meters, Solinsky ran his favorite race in Stockholm – the 5000. And for the second consecutive run he set a personal best as he ran with the leaders throughout and finished fifth in 12:55.53 – the #2 in US history and faster than the American Record at the start of the year. Solinsky ran the kind of race I’ve hoped to see American’s run – stay with the pack and not let go. Chris did this and it wasn’t until the kickers did their thing that Solinsky truly lost contact, and finished only 2 seconds off the winner. He’s made great strides this year and is looking like a potential finalist in Daegu. Who knows what could happen then?
Christian Cantwell continued to show that he is currently the king of the shot, as he was the only thrower over 70 feet shoving the ball 72’ 5.75”, well clear of the 68’ 11.25” for second place Tomas Majewski (POL). While Chaunte Howard Lowe continued to show that she and Blanka Vlasic are in a different class than the rest as they once again dueled in the high jump. Vlasic (6’ 7.5”) winning another tough battle over Howard Lowe (6’ 6.75”). The US was also treated to solid performances by Brittney Reese (2nd, long jump), Debbie Dunn (2nd, 400), Allyson Felix (1st, 200), and Lolo Jones (3rd, 100 hurdles). And even though she was only 5th, Morgan Uceny continues to be impressive in the middle distances – this time over 1500. She continues to be a fierce competitor, running close to the leaders in every race she’s in. Her 4:02.72 was just off her best of 4:02.40 set a month earlier in Lausanne and her competitiveness seems to keep her in every race she’s in. I expect her to be a factor in 2011.
All in all a very good meet with solid performances by American forces and of course the victory heard round the world. Makes one look forward to the upcoming Aviva meet in London.
Top Five 100’s for Sprinting’s Big Three
|Usain Bolt||Tyson Gay||Asafa Powell|