If there’s a sprinter with more to prove than Usain Bolt this year, it’s countryman Yohan Blake.
Since the 2012 Olympics, Blake hasn’t looked anything like the man who won 100m and 200m silver behind Bolt in London (and upset Bolt in both distances at the Jamaican Olympic trials).
The last time we saw Blake in competition was July 11, trailing a lackluster 100m field in Glasgow, then tumbling to the track mid-race and being wheeled out of sight in a chair (video here).
“If I didn’t stop myself [in the race], I would be carried over,” Blake said while launching adidas’ “Ultra Boost” shoes in New York on Thursday. “That never happened to me before. I think it’s like karma. I was in training, saying I never get injured before [presumably in a race, since Blake has dealt with injuries suffered outside of competition].”
In Glasgow, Blake initially called the injury a cramp, but it was much worse, more serious even than a torn hamstring that caused him to miss almost all of the 2013 season.
“The muscle came off the bone and had to be reattached,” Blake said.
The 25-year-old who likes to be called “The Beast” — with matching long fingernails — is back training but said he will see a doctor in Munich in the first half of March, hoping to be cleared for full-speed workouts. Blake said he can reach full fitness two weeks after being cleared.
He will return to a sprint scene dominated in 2014 by Justin Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100m champion five years removed from a four-year doping ban. Gatlin posted the fastest 100m and 200m times in the world last year — 9.77 and 19.68 seconds — with Bolt largely sidelined due to a foot injury.
“You could say he’s the man,” said Blake, who ran 10.02 and 20.48 in 2014 before the Glasgow tumble.
Blake has said he sets dreams rather than goals. And the immediate dreams are very important, given he has also said he wants to retire before 2020, which would make the Rio 2016 Games his Olympic farewell.
He talks about regaining the World Championship in the 100m in Beijing this summer. Blake is the only man other than Bolt to win an Olympic or World Championships gold medal in the 100m or 200m since 2007. He did so in Daegu, South Korea, in 2011, after Bolt infamously false-started out of the 100m final.
“I’ve been dreaming from September about getting back my title,” Blake said. “Every day they trouble me about the 9.69 [his personal best in the 100m, set two weeks after the London Olympics], that I need to change it. I’m working to change that as well.
“I need to get back my title. And the Olympics, I need to get three golds there.”
Many would say Blake’s best chance at being pushed to a personal-best time would come in a race with Bolt, which hasn’t happened since the 2012 Olympics. Blake has cited “big money” for why they have entered the same meets but raced different distances, though Bolt’s agent has said it’s not about that.
Blake acknowledged it’s unlikely the two Jamaicans will go head to head before the Jamaican national championships in June.
“I don’t think they’re going to allow it,” Blake said, smiling. “But if it comes about, I will love it.”
It may not even happen at the Jamaican championships, as Bolt has byes into Worlds as the defending 100m and 200m champion.