Usain Bolt was two tenths slower than at the same track last year, but 9.85 was plenty good enough to win the 100 meters at the London Anniversary Games on Friday.
Bolt came from behind, passing 2003 world champion Kim Collins and American Mike Rodgers midway through the race to deliver victory at London Olympic Stadium in his first appearance there since winning triple gold at the 2012 Games.
It marked a season’s best for Bolt, who appears to be coming into form leading into Moscow, where he will attempt to take back his world title in the 100. Bolt false-started out of the 100 at the 2011 worlds.
Rodgers, slated to replace Tyson Gay on the U.S. roster at the world championships in two weeks, placed second in 9.98. Jamaican Nesta Carter was third in 9.99.
Bolt’s biggest competition come worlds, 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Justin Gatlin, was not in the field in London on Friday. Gatlin, who beat Bolt in Rome earlier this season, is the only other man going to worlds who has run sub-9.9 this year.
But Bolt’s 9.85 on Friday bettered Gatlin’s season’s best of 9.89, And he did it without a very good start. There’s little doubt Bolt, now a bigger favorite going into worlds, will get faster in the next two weeks.
“I had a bad start … it’s not the best part of my game but I did OK,” Bolt told the BBC, according to Reuters. “If I’m in good shape I always think I’m going to do well. My start was poor and I need to work on that. To make a perfect race I need to make a good start and just get in to the race. Hopefully I can make a good time at Moscow and continue to do well.”
Bolt is expected to run again tomorrow in the 4×100 relay. Others in action Saturday are London Olympic champions Allyson Felix (200), Mo Farah (3,000), Jessica Ennis (100 hurdles) and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (100).
Here’s a rundown of the other events at the Diamond League meet:
Women’s 1,500: Mary Cain, 17, spent the first 1,450 meters in the back of the pack of a slow-paced, tight race before moving up on the final straight to finish fifth in her senior European debut in 4:09.77.
Kenyan Mary Kuria won in 4:08.77. Cain has run 4:04.62 this year, but her second-place time at a steamy nationals, 4:28.76, came in an incredibly slow overall final.
Cain was in last place in a field of 15 after the second and third laps against less-than-stellar competition. But Cain, who trains under Alberto Salazar, surely came into this meet focused on worlds preparation first and foremost.
“I got a little too overwhelmed in the start,” Cain told Flotrack. “I came in fifth in the end, which actually isn’t that bad. … You’re not always going to have a good race. I can learn from this now, recup. Now I know, hey, Moscow, I don’t just walk into the final and get some medal.”
Men’s 200: Jamaican Warren Weir, the Olympic bronze medalist, confirmed his status as a medal favorite at worlds by pulling away off the turn to win in 19.89 (+.2).
Is it a time that will worry his training partner Bolt? No. Bolt has run 19.73 and 19.79 this year.
Fellow Jamaican Jason Young, who did not make the worlds team, was second in 19.99, and American Wallace Spearmon was third in 20.18. Spearmon should replace Tyson Gay on the worlds team in the 200 when the official roster comes out.
It appears the three Americans — Isiah Young, Curtis Mitchell and, likely, Spearmon — will be among those fighting for bronze behind Bolt and Weir in Moscow.
Men’s 400: World and Olympic champion Kirani James had no problems with rival LaShawn Merritt not in the field.
James, of Grenada and the University of Alabama, didn’t panic at American Tony McQuay‘s blistering start and won in 44.65, a pedestrian time for him this season.
McQuay was within a step of James coming off the last turn and clocked a 45.09, well off his 44.72 and 44.74 from nationals. Still, he earned second place while clearly focusing on a fast opening 200 on Friday. The University of Florida product has a shot at bronze in Moscow.
Notable: The men’s high jump provided epic theater, with Ukrainian Bohdan Bondarenko outlasting U.S. Olympic silver medalist Erik Kynard, 2.38 meters to 2.36. Bondarenko went after Javier Sotomayor‘s world record of 2.45, failing on two attempts at 2.47 meters. … Americans Nick Symmonds (season’s best 1:43.67) and Duane Solomon (1:44.12) went a clear 1-2 in the 800. Solomon remains the world leader (1:43.27) with world-record holder David Rudisha out of worlds with a knee injury. Solomon and Symmonds could medal at worlds. … Olympic champion Jenn Suhr (4.73) took second in the pole vault to Olympic silver medalist and world leader Yarisley Silva (4.83) of Cuba. They’re moving toward a showdown with Olympic bronze medalist Yelena Isinbayeva at worlds. The Russian Isinbayeva, a two-time Olympic champion, has announced she will step away from the sport after Moscow. … American Brenda Martinez won the 800 in 1:58.19. Martinez, second to Alysia Montano at nationals, became the first woman to go sub-1:59 three times this year, according to IAAF. Between her and Montano, we could see the first U.S. medal at worlds in the event ever. … American Shannon Rowbury posted the fastest time in the world this year to win the 3,000 meters in 8:41.46, leading a 1-2-3 U.S. finish ahead of Gabriele Anderson and Molly Huddle. Of course, the 3,000 is not part of the world championships program. Rowbury is prepping to run the 5,000 at worlds.