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Bolt win rounds off a golden summer

By Simon Turnbull
Saturday, 6 September 2008

Usain Bolt (left) makes up for a slow start off the blocks with a storming finish to beat his Jamaican compatriot Asafa Powell (right) in Brussels last night, in a time of 9.77 seconds which would have been significantly faster but for a headwi


Usain Bolt (left) makes up for a slow start off the blocks with a storming finish to beat his Jamaican compatriot Asafa Powell (right) in Brussels last night, in a time of 9.77 seconds which would have been significantly faster but for a headwind

So that's it, then. With a suitable finishing flourish in the home straight of the Stade Roi Baudouin, Usain Bolt eased his 6ft 5in frame past Asafa Powell to sign off his ground-breaking track season with a 100 metres win in the final Golden League meeting of the summer in Brussels last night.

It was a far from perfect performance by the 22-year-old Jamaican phenomenon, a triple gold medal winner and triple world record breaker at the Beijing Olympics last month. The last of the nine competitors to leave the blocks in the men's 100m, with a sluggish reaction time of 0.223sec, Bolt had to dig deep to claw his way past Powell in the last 20m – deeper than he had done in the Olympic final in the "Bird's Nest" stadium three weeks ago.

On that occasion, on a balmy Saturday evening in Beijing, the young man from Trelawny Parish could afford to put his foot on the brakes with some 15m remaining and still reduced his world record from 9.72 to 9.69. Last night, in chilly conditions and running into a 0.9 metres-per-second headwind, Bolt stopped the finish line clock at 9.77sec. Had the breeze been at his back, he would have broken his world record.

He did break one record, though – the track record. That stood at 9.84sec to Powell, who broke it himself as runner-up. Bolt's compatriot clocked 9.83sec as part of a Jamaican 1-2-3-4, with Nesta Carter third in 10.07sec and Michael Frater fourth in 10.08sec. Tyson Gay, the reigning world 100m and 200m champion from the United States, withdrew from the race on Thursday, not wishing to risk his troublesome hamstring in chilly conditions.

For Bolt, it was a more than satisfactory finish to a season in which he has taken a quantum leap from a sprinter of world-beating promise to the fastest sprinter of all time. "Asafa is a really fast guy," he reflected. "I'm getting used to chasing him." It was also a fine run by Powell, the 25-year-old enigma wrapped up in a yellow and green vest.

How he could run like a donkey (or the sprinting equivalent of such) in the 100m final in Beijing – finishing an also-run fifth in 9.95sec, 0.26sec behind the slowing-down, showboating Bolt – then perform like a high speed thoroughbred in the rain in Gateshead last Sunday (winning in 9.87sec) and in Lausanne on Tuesday (clocking 9.72sec, a lifetime best) is a mystery even the all-time greats of philosophy would struggle to fathom. Frustratingly, though, it has become par for the course for the big bear of a Jamaican to deliver when the pressure is off and to wilt when it matters most.

Powell may have won the Commonwealth 100m title at the Melbourne Cricket Ground two and a half years ago but at global level he has been consistently hit for six – well, for a couple of fives and a three, at any rate, having placed fifth in the last two Olympic finals and third at the World Championships in Osaka last summer. Still, his record in Brussels has been remarkably consistent. Until last night he had been unbeaten on the Baudouin track, having won the 100m there in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007. He was out injured in 2005.

Not that the men's 100m was the only show in town in the Belgian capital last night. There was the battle for the $1m (£565,000) Golden League jackpot to be resolved, between Pamela Jelimo and Blanka Vlasic. If both women finished the evening still unbeaten, Jelimo in the 800m, Vlasic in the high jump, they would have shared the prize. As it happened, the money was all Jelimo's. The 18-year-old Kenyan, who blitzed to the Olympic title in Beijing and who recorded the third-fastest time in history in Zurich last week (1min 54.01sec), was never in trouble in her event. Indeed, she won by some 25m in 1:55.16 – a sixth win in six Golden League races this summer for a young woman who was an unknown on the international circuit at the start of the season. Britain's Marilyn Okoro finished fifth in 1:59.33.

While Jelimo looked $1m, and claimed it too, Vlasic was left empty-handed. Since June last year, the Croat has lost only two high jump competitions, both at a huge cost. In Beijing she was beaten by the bespectacled Belgian Tia Hellebaut and had to be content with the silver medal. Last night she cleared the same height as the German Anne Friedrich, but was beaten on the countback system, having registered failures at 1.94m and 1.97m.

Of the British Beijing veterans in action, Martyn Rooney was the highest-placed, finishing runner-up to Jeremy Wariner of the US in the 400m, clocking 45.34sec. Christine Ohuruogu, stepping down from her Olympic title winning distance of 400m, was a distant seventh in the women's 200m in 23.33sec.

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