It’s not been often over the last few years that Usain Bolt has been upstaged on the track, and after setting an SB and WL 9.76 100 it appeared that Brussels would be no different. Except that approximately six minutes later the men’s 200 went off – and 19.26 seconds later the sprint world was once again turned on its ear!
But that sonic boom wasn’t Bolt flashing past the electric eye beam – he was track side enjoying his 100 meter victory. He did have a great view however, of the duel that was taking place between training mate Yohan Blake, and Daegu silver medalist Walter Dix. Dix to Blake’s inside churning around the bend and coming up on Blake’s shoulder just as the turn straightened out – only to have Blake begin to pull away as they both blazed down the stretch. As they passed the finish line Blake’s eyes got wide with surprise; Bolt stared in shock; and Dix left the track and headed under the stands – I would imagine running 19.53 and losing to 19.26 will do that to you.
Suddenly the race that I had picked to be THE event of the season, but languished with few quality fields, looked like it could be THE hottest ticket in London! Blake moved to #2 all time with the #2 performance. Sliding none other than Michael Johnson back a slot – and making 19.32 look almost normal – in a race that was faster than both Johnson’s historic Atlanta ’96 win AND Bolt’s record breaking (19.30) Beijing run.
With the season basically done with the close of this meet, Blake closes out the year as the hottest sprinter on the planet, having run 9.82 to win in both Berlin and Zurich prior to today’s epic run. While his 100 meter times have been somewhat predictable and expected, Blake had given no indications at all that anything approaching today’s run was in the offing. Consider that Blake’s PR over 200 at the close of 2009 was 20.60 – his pre professional PR. He improved that substantially last year with times of 19.78 & 19.85 in his only two races of the year. His three early spring races this year of 20.39, 20.33 & 20.38 gave no indication however, that things were going to change significantly in that event this year – especially since he hadn’t been seen in it at all in Europe. I gather that we may see him there a bit more in the future. The smooth striding Jamaican doesn’t have the turnover of Dix, the power of Gay or the long stride of Bolt. He does have that moment of separation in every race – but that seems more conducive to the 100 than the 200. He made that work today, because he also seems to have the ability to hold his edge once he gains it.
I’m sure that everyone will be reviewing this race starting tomorrow. Because after this EVERYONE is going to have to go back to the drawing board as suddenly being as good as Michael Johnson could end up with only bronze in London – or shudder the thought, off the podium! And once again I BEG meet promoters to put this on their schedules because when the fields are right it’s the most exciting race on the track!
Walter Dix, though disappointed in the loss, was rewarded by moving to #2 all-time American, with the #2 time – moving none other than Tyson Gay back a slot! Only MJ’s Atlanta win is faster among Americans. And he will have to take solace in knowing that this was the best 1-2 finish ever in the event. But for Dix this is also the second time in his last two big 200’s that he has finished second – having also done so in Daegu behind Bolt’s 19.40. His times of 19.70 & 19.53 are better for two races than anyone else had done the past two years – including Bolt who was 19.86/19.40 this year and 19.76/19.56 last year. But I have to say to Walter, that if he wants to win these races in the future he’s going to have to run taller. He may the best turn over machine in the business – but he sits in the “bucket” and looks like he’s riding a spin bike. He’s going to have to get up on his toes and run tall and get a bit more extension in that stride of his – because if everyone comes to the table next year this race is going to be ON!
Because after all the hype and crunching of numbers neither Usain Bolt nor Tyson Gay were in the race. They are the two best turn runners in the business hands down and change the dynamics of any race they are in – because they have the ability to take you out of your comfort zone. Also expected to be back and healthy next year is Wallace Spearmon – he owns a 19.65 PR; is the man that was ahead of Blake last year at 19.79 when Blake ran 19.85; and may be the best closer in the business. Christophe Lemaitre though still learning this event, scorched 19.80 behind Bolt and Dix in Daegu and has huge upside potential. So I go back to what I said at the beginning of THIS year – this will be the hottest event in London.
Oh yeah, there were other events in Brussels. As a matter of fact, in spite of the lack of heavy duty match ups, Brussels closed out the 2011 season with a BANG!
The women’s 100 lived up to its billing and showed just what happens when the best get together with some semblance of regularity. Daegu medalists Carmelita Jeter, Veronica Campbell Brown and Kelly Ann Baptiste lined up and gave the crowd its money’s worth with Baptiste and Brown bursting from the blocks to take the early lead. But as soon as Jeter came up into her stride she hit the gas and went past both women on her way to a swift 10.78 win – her 9th sub 11 and 3rd sub 10.80 of the season. Of course VCB didn’t give up without a fight, pressing Jeter all the way with a 10.85 – her 7th sub 11 of the season. With Jeter becoming a threat in the deuce, this pair could be the top sprint rivalry of the Olympic season!
All the heat wasn’t in the sprints though. The men’s 10,000 meters saw Kenenisa Bekele look like the runner of old as he flew to a WL 26:43.18 to lead seven men under 27:00! One of those was Galen Rupp who took down the AR with a sizzling 26:48.00 in third place – signaling that he is ready for prime time. Also moving up on the all-time list of American middle distance runners was Morgan Uceny who won the 1500 in a WL 4:00.06 – just missing breaking the 4:00 barrier and becoming the 6th fastest American woman ever. Uceny did it in what has been her typical fashion – running back in the pack on the first couple of laps; moving up on the third lap to the 6th position passing the bell; making a major move down the backstretch to move into a contending position, then attacking around the final bend and sprinting off the turn to victory down the final stretch. I don’t say things like this often, but I have no doubt that if not for the fall she would have won Daegu gold – and in my first prediction for 2012 she is my London favorite.
These were the hottest races on a track that was scorching! After what seemed like a somewhat down Zurich meet for the athletes, everyone seemed to have their second wind in Brussels – making me wish this was the middle of the season instead of the end! If nothing else, however, it wets the appetite for 2012 and London – and leaves much to talk about heading into the Olympic season. Let the speculation begin – because while the competition is ending I have lots to talk about! We can start with today’s deuce. Watch below. As Arnold said “I’ll be back”.