Usain Bolt embarks on his latest-ever start to an Olympic season with his first competition since Aug. 29 at a meet at the Cayman Islands on Saturday night.
Bolt, last seen in race form sweeping the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at the 2015 World Championships, makes his 2016 debut in a low-key meet against largely low-key competition.
On the other side of the world, several more Olympic and World medalists, including Bolt rival Justin Gatlin, gather in Shanghai for the second Diamond League meet of the year.
Here’s the Shanghai and Bolt schedule Saturday (all times Eastern):
4:55 a.m. — Women’s high jump
5:50 — Women’s discus
5:51 — Men’s shot put
6:22 — Women’s long jump
6:45 — Men’s pole vault
6:55 — Men’s high jump
7:04 — Men’s 400m hurdles
7:12 — Women’s 1500m
7:25 — Men’s 100m
7:35 — Women’s 400m
7:40 — Men’s long jump
7:43 — Men’s 800m
7:52 — Women’s 3000m steeplechase
7:55 — Men’s javelin
8:11 — Women’s 200m
8:20 — Men’s 5000m
8:44 — Men’s 110m hurdles
8:40 p.m. — Usain Bolt in Cayman 100m
Here are five events to watch:
Shanghai women’s discus — 5:50 a.m.
Every women’s track event in Shanghai lacks either the Olympic favorite or top American, but the discus checks both boxes.
The field includes Olympic champion Sandra Perković of Croatia, World champion Denia Caballero of Cuba and American record holder Gia Lewis-Smallwood.
It will be an early test for Lewis-Smallwood, who broke the American record in 2014 but struggled in 2015, finishing 11th at Worlds, reportedly while injured.
Shanghai men’s 100m — 7:25 a.m.
Gatlin races his third 100m of the year against Mike Rodgers and Isiah Young, who finished third and fourth at the 2015 U.S. Championships (with Gatlin not in that field).
Plus, Qatar’s Femi Ogunode, who broke 10 seconds in his last two races of 2015 in September and his first two races this year in April, including a 9.91 that’s the fastest in the world for 2016.
But only Gatlin is an Olympic medal favorite in this group. He severely rolled an ankle last fall, then ran 9.90 on April 16 (with too much tailwind to be a legal time) and 10.02 last Sunday into a slight headwind.
On May 15, 2015, Gatlin ran 9.74, a time that would have beaten Bolt at the World Championships in August. He does not appear to be near that form this spring, but there’s plenty of time to reach it before the Olympic Trials and the Rio Games.
Shanghai men’s 800m — 7:43 a.m.
David Rudisha is the reigning Olympic and World champion and world-record holder, but the Kenyan is not the unstoppable force he was four years ago.
Rudisha went more than one year between races in 2013 and 2014 due to a right knee injury he first noticed in Central Park. Yes, he won the 2015 World title, but Rudisha received incredible fortune by not having to face any prior Olympic or World medalists in the final.
In Shanghai, Rudisha gets U.S. champion and 2013 World silver medalist Nick Symmonds, who last raced Aug. 8, according to Tilastopaja.org.
Shanghai 110m hurdles — 8:44 a.m.
The climax event of the meet includes the five fastest men’s hurdlers this year and three Americans who own Olympic or World titles.
There’s 2011 World champion Jason Richardson, 2012 Olympic champion and world-record holder Aries Merritt and 2013 World champion David Oliver.
Plus, Jamaicans Omar McLeod and Hansle Parchment and Spain’s Orlando Ortega, the top three men this year.
McLeod prevailed in the Diamond League opener in Doha last week, with Merritt taking sixth in his first Diamond League race since a Sept. 1 kidney transplant.
Cayman men’s 100m — 8:40 p.m.
There is one man scheduled for this race who will keep Bolt somewhat honest. That’s countryman Kemar Bailey-Cole, whom you may remember Bolt controversially beat with identical times at this meet three years ago.
Bolt is 8-0 against Bailey-Cole all time, according to Tilastopaja. Bolt’s all-time best record against one sprinter is 22-0 against Churandy Martina of the Netherlands, according to the website.
Bolt’s first races in 2004, 2008 and 2012 all came in March or April, according to Tilastopaja, but he was set back by a reported ankle injury this winter.
In 2012, Bolt’s first 100m came May 5, when he ran 9.82, but given an injury-slowed last couple of years, don’t expect him to go that fast on Saturday.
“Most of my friends, we have a bet on how fast I’m going to run,” Bolt said in a press conference Friday, via audio obtained from Cayman 27. “I have 9.91, so we’ll see how that goes.”