Usain Bolt is confident he can produce one more magical Midas touch when he seeks to defend his 100m title at the IAAF World Championships.
In eight individual finals at the past four worlds (as well as in four 4x100m relay finals), Bolt has only suffered one hiccup: when he false started in the 100m final in Daegu in 2011.
Eleven world titles to go along with eight Olympic golds: Bolt has the experience of dealing with multi-round big-event racing.
It would be a brave person to bet against the 30-year-old Jamaican, no matter how sluggish, relatively speaking, his season has been so far.
He has had only three outings, all over 100m, and only once dipped under the 10-second barrier, in Monaco last month (9.95sec).
“If I show up at a championships, I’m fully confident,” Bolt maintained.
“My coach (Glen Mills) is confident and I’m ready to go. I’m fully confident, 100 percent.”
Whilst labelling himself “for some reason, the underdog,” Bolt fired out a warning shot at potential rivals by saying he wanted to bring the curtain down on his individual exploits as a sprinter who was “unbeatable, unstoppable.”
Bolt suffered a rare defeat in the 100m by two-time doping cheat Justin Gatlin at the Rome Diamond League meet in 2013, losing out by a hundredth of a second.
The multi-medalled American, now 35, will be in the field in the British capital and a nailed-down contender for a podium place.
Bolt, Gatlin’s nemesis
Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100m gold medallist and 2005 world champion before serving a ban between 2006-10, won silvers behind Bolt in Beijing in 2015 and Moscow two years previously, and last year became the oldest man to win a 100m Olympic medal when he took silver in Rio, also behind his Jamaican nemesis.
Bolt’s teammate Yohan Blake, world 100m champion in 2011 after the false start, and Gatlin’s compatriot Christian Coleman, who has the season’s fastest time of 9.82sec, should be in the running.
Bolt’s path to victory was given a boost Wednesday when Canadian sprinter Andre De Grasse withdrew from the Worlds with a hamstring injury he suffered in training. De Grasse was a medal threat in the 100m and 200m.
South African Akani Simbine and Frenchman Jimmy Vicaut all have a realistic chance of bagging a medal should they safely negotiate heats and keep enough in reserve from Friday’s heats for Saturday’s semi-final and final.
“I love competition, I thrive on competition and I want people to run fast to push me,” warned Bolt, who set the current world record of 9.58sec when he won world gold in Berlin in 2009, his winning times in the last two championships being 9.79 and 9.77 respectively.
“I’m the underdog, for some reason,” Bolt said. “That’s what I keep reading. That’s what my team keeps telling me… I’ve got to prove myself once more.
“My last race was 9.95, which shows I’m going in the right direction. The two rounds (of heats and semi-finals) always help me. I’m always going forward.
“At a championships it’s about who keeps their nerve. I’ve been here before. It’s time to go. It’s ‘go’ time.”
Feature image: AFP