Usain Bolt is in an unfamiliar position going into Saturday’s Diamond League meet in Paris. He’s chasing another sprinter.
Bolt, the six-time Olympic gold medalist, is looking up at Tyson Gay in both the 100 and 200 meters on the IAAF world leaders lists this season. Gay owns the year’s fastest times in the 100 (9.75) and the 200 (19.74) with a little more than a month until the world championships in Moscow.
Bolt will run his second 200 of the season Saturday (3:50 p.m. ET) at Stade de France. His first, a 19.79 in Oslo on June 13, marked the fastest time in the world in 2013 until Gay ran his 19.74 at U.S. nationals June 23.
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“With the world championships approaching, I need some top-class races, to find out where I’m at so as I can place myself in relation to the others and, most importantly, in relation to myself,” Bolt told reporters in Paris.
He’ll get decent competition in Paris, even though Gay and the injured Yohan Blake are not in the field.
Bolt will face the top two finishers from Jamaican worlds trials — where Bolt received a bye — in 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Warren Weir and Nickel Ashmeade.
The biggest cheers — outside of Bolt — will go to Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre, the 2011 world bronze medalist in the 200.
But the real comparison will be to Gay’s previous times. If Bolt beats Gay’s 19.74, he’ll silence some of the early doubts about his dominance this year. If he doesn’t, and if he runs slower than the Oslo 19.79, those whispers will grow a tad louder.
The women’s high jump (2:08) features the world’s top three performers this season in American 2012 Olympic silver medalist Brigetta Barrett, 2012 Olympic champion Anna Chicherova and two-time world champion Blanka Vlasic.
The men’s 400 (2:17) brings a budding rivalry between the last two Olympic champions, LaShawn Merritt and Kirani James, who combine to own the eight fastest times this season. They’re 1-1 against each other in 2013.
The women’s 100 (2:56) includes two-time Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, world leader Kelly-Ann Baptiste and U.S. and NCAA champion English Gardner. Another notable is versatile Nigerian Blessing Okagbare, who won a 200 in Birmingham, England, on Sunday, then won the long jump in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Thursday.
The 110 hurdles (3:30) is loaded with the last two Olympic champions (Aries Merritt and Dayron Robles), last two world champions (Jason Richardson and Ryan Brathwaite), the world leader (David Oliver) and the U.S. champion (Ryan Wilson).
Four American Olympians are in the finale, the men’s 1,500 (3:50), including 2012 silver medalist Leo Manzano, Matthew Centrowitz, who was fourth in London, two-time Olympic medalist Bernard Lagat and two-time Olympian Lopez Lomong.