by Luke Phillips
OSTRAVA: Usain Bolt will open his European track season here on Friday full of confidence, in top shape and eyeing the ultimate prize – more Olympic medals.
The talk in athletics in any Olympic year is of the revered Games themselves, when track and field take centre stage at the world’s largest sporting event.
Bolt revolutionised sprinting, and indeed athletics, four years ago in Beijing, setting world records when winning the 100 and 200m titles, and also starring in a record-breaking Jamaican quartet in the 4x100m relay.
Bolt left the Chinese capital as one of the most recognisable figures in world sport, unbelievably going on to beat both his individual sprint marks with new times (9.58 and 19.19sec) in the Berlin worlds in 2009.
He takes to the track in this eastern Czech city for the sixth time on Friday, seemingly brimming with confidence that he will be unbeatable come the London Games (and before) given his recent injury-free run and impressive form.
“I’m definitely on the good path, the right track. I’ve been injury free and I’m looking to doing extremely well at the Olympics,” Bolt said.
The Jamaican will be up against, among others, Dwain Chambers, the Briton having served a drugs ban and now cleared to race in the Olympics after the Court for Arbitration in Sport (CAS) overturned a British Olympic Association bylaw that banned doping cheats for life.
“For me, rules are rules,” said Bolt, a one-time training partner of Chambers, albeit for a very short period. If the rules say it’s okay for him to compete, who am I to say otherwise?”
Bolt’s 200m meeting record of 19.83sec, set before his Beijing heroics in 2008, could come under threat from American duo Walter Dix and Wallace Spearmon.
“I’m really looking forward to running for the first time in Ostrava,”said Dix, the reigning double world sprint silver medallist whose personal best is 19.53sec. I’ll look to try and continue as the season progresses towards London. Hopefully I can lower the meet record.”
Other mouth-watering duels in Ostrava include that between Olympic winner and newly-crowned world indoor champion Pamela Jelimo against 2009 world champion and Daegu silver medallist Caster Semenya, of South Africa, in the 800m.
Jarmila Kratochvilova will be present to watch the showdown, something not lost on Semenya, currently coached by Maria Mutola, herself the meet record holder with 1:57.72 from 2004.