NEW YORK — Usain Bolt couldn’t explain what went wrong after winning a 200m race in a slow 20.29 seconds at the Adidas Grand Prix on Saturday, increasing doubt about his form a little more than two months before a possible showdown with Justin Gatlin at the World Championships.
It marked Bolt’s slowest 200m time, not including prelim races, since 2006.
“I’m not overly happy with it,” Bolt told Lewis Johnson shortly after his first race in the U.S. in five years, at the site of his first world record seven years ago. “I don’t know exactly what’s going on.”
Bolt said how he ran the curve portion of the 200m was the worst of his career, which has included six Olympic gold medals and world records in the 100m and 200m.
Bolt’s time Saturday was far short of Justin Gatlin‘s world-leading 19.68 seconds from May. Bolt won by .03 over Zharnel Hughes among a field that did not include Gatlin and into a 2.8 meters/second headwind. Watch the race video here.
“I got out of the blocks, and I just didn’t go anywhere,” Bolt said. “After the turn, I pretty much gave up.”
Bolt’s race Saturday was his third 200m since 2013 after he missed much of 2014 following foot surgery that March. Bolt previously ran 20.13 and 20.20 this year. His world record is 19.19 from 2009.
“This season is not going so smoothly,” Bolt said. “I’m trying to figure out what’s going on. I need to get on top of things, try to work my way back. … At this pace, my legacy is going to be in trouble.”
Bolt will race the 100m and possibly the 200m at the Jamaican Championships in two weeks, his coach said after the race. Bolt’s spot on the Worlds team is not dependent on his results at the Jamaican Championships.
“He didn’t approach the turn with his usual aggression that he’s capable of,” longtime coach Glen Mills said several feet away from Bolt as the sprinter received a post-race massage. “His training is coming along gradually. … He’s going to be running a lot more races in order to get him into competitive peak shape. He hasn’t been doing much in terms of competitive running. Over the next two months, you’ll see him doing quite a lot more races with a more aggressive approach in order to get the kind of competitive level we would like.”
Mills said Bolt is in better condition now than he was at this point in 2013, when he was coming off a slight hamstring strain and went on to sweep the 100m and 200m at Worlds.
Americans are preparing for the U.S. Championships in Eugene, Ore., in two weeks, where they will be looking to finish in the top three of their events to make the World Championships team. Reigning World champions and Diamond League season champions have byes into Worlds.
Also Saturday, Tyson Gay won the 100m in 10.12 seconds into a 1.7 m/s headwind (video). Gay ran 9.88 on May 30 and is the second fastest American this year behind Gatlin, who has a bye into Worlds. (Full Adidas Grand Prix results here)
Tori Bowie prevailed in the 200m in 22.23 into a 2.8m/s headwind (video), the fastest time ever into that much of a wind, according to the IAAF’s Jon Mulkeen. Only Olympic champion Allyson Felix, who has a bye into Worlds, has been faster among Americans this year. Bowie, primarily a long jumper until spring 2014, was the fastest woman in the world in the 100m last year.
Olympic champion Jenn Suhr finished third in the pole vault, failing to clear 4.64m. Brazil’s Fabiana Murer cleared 4.80m for the win, just .01 off Suhr’s world-leading clearance for 2015.
Former New York Giants running back David Wilson triple jumped 14.66m in his first meet in four years. He fell well shy of the 16.30m needed to automatically qualify for the U.S. Championships.
Cuban Pablo Pedro Pichardo, the best jumper this year, won with 17.57m over Olympic silver medalist Will Claye.
Kenyan Olympic champion David Rudisha, beset by injury much of the last two years, won the 800m in 1:43.58 (video), just .02 off the fastest time in the world this year.
U.S. champion English Gardner won the 100m in 11.00 (video), two weeks after she clocked a personal-best 10.84 at the Prefontaine Classic. Gardner is ranked second among Americans this year, behind Tori Bowie, who ran 10.82 at the Prefontaine Classic.
Sharika Nelvis won the 100m hurdles in 12.65 seconds (video). Summer and Winter Olympian Lolo Jones was fourth in 12.95 as she continues to come back from a hamstring injury.
The fastest U.S. women this year are Jasmin Stowers (12.35), Kendra Harrison (12.50) and Nelvis (12.52). World champion Brianna Rollins has a bye into Worlds. The 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson is the fourth fastest American this year.
World champion David Oliver won the 110m hurdles in 13.19 into a headwind, topping 2011 World champion Jason Richardson by .07. The fastest American this year (and second fastest in the world) is Olympic champion Aries Merritt (13.12).
Mary Cain, who in 2013 became the youngest American to make a World Championships team at age 17, finished fourth in a 1000m (video). It was her first race since announcing she moved from her training base in Oregon back to her native New York.
“It was just a decision, honestly, because of my long school year,” said Cain, who finished her freshman year at the University of Portland while running professionally. Cain said Alberto Salazar is still her coach. Salazar is under scrutiny after a BBC and ProPublica report that quoted former team members saying Salazar violated medical and anti-doping rules with some of his athletes.
Ajee’ Wilson took the 800m in 1:58.83 (video). Wilson, 21, was the fastest in the world last year and is No. 2 this year.
The 2004 Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner finished seventh in the 400m in 45.89 (video), his fastest time since 2013. He’ll need to be about one second faster at the U.S. Championships to make the World Championships team individually.
Francena McCorory won the 400m in 49.86, the fastest time in the world this year. McCorory’s top rivals, countrywomen Sanya Richards-Ross and Allyson Felix, were not in the field Saturday.
Puerto Rican Javier Culson took the 400m hurdles in 48.48, his fastest time this year but .39 slower than the world’s fastest man in 2015, American Bershawn Jackson. Culson was the fastest man in 2014. Jackson pulled out of the Adidas Grand Prix to be with his ill mother.
Flashback Video: Usain Bolt at the Athens 2004 Olympics