ROME— World record-holder Usain Bolt put his poor performance in the Czech Republic behind him with a new season’s best of 9.76 seconds in the 100-metre race at the Golden Gala yesterday. Bolt ran a relatively slow 10.04 in Ostrava last week, raising questions about his Olympic preparations. His previous season best of 9.82 was set at home in Jamaica this month. “My drive was better and I started well,” Bolt said. “The transition was also better. After Ostrava a lot of people questioned me, but I never questioned myself.” While his start in Rome still wasn’t exceptional, Bolt quickly pulled in front and broke the previous meet record of 9.77 set by Tyson Gay three years ago.
Former world record-holder Asafa Powell crossed second in 9.91 and European champion Christophe Lemaitre was third in 10.04. There was virtually no wind. Bolt attributed his problems in Ostrava to fatigue for his first race of the season in Europe. This time, he appeared energised even two hours before his race, when he warmed up the crowd with a lap around the track on a golf cart, wearing the shirt of Italy’s football team as he danced and posed for the cameras. When he came back out to run, Bolt chatted with the race worker behind his lane before he stepped into the starting blocks. After the race, he grabbed an Italian flag as he celebrated with another lap around the track that hosted the 1960 Olympics. “Since I arrived in Rome I made sure to be in bed early. So I got a lot of rest and slept a lot,” Bolt said. “In Ostrava I had not had enough sleep. The race was much better.”
This was the third Diamond League meet of the year but Bolt’s first. Bolt will also compete in a Diamond League meet in Oslo, Norway, next week before returning to Jamaica for national trials. He then plans to return to Europe for a 200 in Monaco on July 20, his last race before the London Games start a week later. In other events on a comfortable evening at Stadio Olimpico, Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce settled for second in the women’s 100 behind Ivory Coast winner Murielle Ahoure, who timed 11.00. There was nearly a world record in the 3,000 steeplechase, with Kenya’s Paul Kpisiele Koech clocking 7:54.31 for the third-fastest time ever. With Saif Saaeed Shaheen’s 2004 world record of 7:53.63 seemingly in reach, Koech accelerated on the final straight but came up just short. “I think I am capable now of running the world record,” Koech said. “I really did what I was able to do.”
With world champion Dai Greene a late withdrawal due to illness, Javier Culson of Puerto Rico won the 400 hurdles in 48.14, with Olympic bronze medalist Bershawn Jackson of the United States second in 48.25. Felix Sanchez, the 2004 Olympic champion, had a muscle problem about 30 meters from the line. The Dominican Republic athlete stopped running suddenly and fell down to the track chest first. He came up with a slight limp in his step.
“I felt a little tightening in my calf,” Sanchez said. “But this is nothing serious.” There was a surprise winner in the women’s 800, with 19-year-old Fantu Megiso clocking an Ethiopian record of 1:57.56—the second-fastest time in the world this year. Olympic champion Pamela Jelimo crossed second and world champ Mariya Savinova was third, while 2009 world champ Caster Semenya settled for eighth. (AP)