The Jamaican Olympic Track and Field Trials begin Thursday in Kingston (meet site here), and they have less fanfare than four years ago.
That’s because there is no doubt Usain Bolt is the island’s best sprinter. That wasn’t the case in 2012.
Bolt was beaten in the Jamaican Trials 100m and 200m by younger training partner Yohan Blake four years ago. Bolt still made the team in second place, but it meant that he went into the Games as less than the massive favorite he was at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Bolt reversed those Trials results at the London Games, taking gold to Blake’s silver in the 100m and 200m. And Blake hasn’t been the same since, with hamstring injuries plaguing him for much of this Olympic cycle. Blake is not assured of making the Jamaican Olympic team in the 100m and 200m.
Bolt, Blake and former world-record holder Asafa Powell headline the 100m that begins Thursday. The semifinals and final are Friday night, with the top three in line to make the Olympic team individually, plus more for the relay.
The 200m, where Bolt is an even bigger favorite, is on Saturday and Sunday.
On June 11, Bolt won what amounted to an Olympic Trials preview, also in Kingston. He stumbled in his first several steps but still clocked 9.88 seconds, his fastest time this early in a year since 2012.
Nickel Ashmeade and Blake were second and third, both in 9.94 seconds, with Powell crossing in 9.98.
Bolt’s time makes him the second-fastest man in the world this year behind France’s Jimmy Vicaut, a rising 24-year-old whose best Olympic or world championships 100m finish is sixth.
Justin Gatlin, considered Bolt’s biggest rival, has not been as fast this spring as in 2015.
Also at Jamaican Trials, two-time Olympic women’s 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce faces questions about her form given a recent toe injury.
She last raced June 11, when she clocked 11.09 in a 100m, which ranks her fifth among Jamaicans this year.
The benefit for Fraser-Pryce is that Jamaica has only two other established star sprinters posting fast times — two-time Olympic 200m champion Veronica Campbell-Brown and world 200m silver medalist Elaine Thompson — and of course three women make the Olympic team each in the 100m and 200m.Follow @nzaccardi