LONDON (AP) — Usain Bolt returned to the site of his last Olympic triumph, recovering from a slow start to win the 100 meters Friday night in the Anniversary Games in his best time this season.
The world’s fastest man failed to leave the blocks promptly, but powered through the field at the Diamond League meet. He finished in 9.85 seconds at the stadium where he won three gold medals last year in the London Games.
Bolt, who holds the world records in the 100 and 200, is looking to do even better at the world championships in Moscow next month.
“It (the start) was horrifying for me,” he said. “I think it is just race rust and I just need to get a few races in. The rounds in the world championships will help that and get my legs freer and a bit lighter. Hopefully the coach will figure out what I need to do to get me more explosive out of the blocks, I guess.
“For the first time, I think, in a long while I was slightly nervous. Initially, I was excited to come out because I knew it was going to be a big crowd. But when I got out there and I saw that it was ram-packed and the energy was still like the Olympics, it was just wonderful, so I was slightly nervous but I loved the energy of the crowd. It was beautiful and I love competing here.”
With track and field reeling from a slew of doping headlines involving stars such as Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell, Bolt wants the focus to return to a happier narrative.
“I try to assist the sport to do great things and to show the sport in a good light, and that is what I’m here for,” the Jamaican said. “You guys are here to tell people that Usain Bolt is needed for the sport or whatever, but I am just here to do my best and to prove to the world that it is possible to run clean and train hard and be focused.”
American Michael Rodgers was second in 9.98, and Jamaica’s Nesta Carter was third. Kim Collins of Saint Kitts and Nevis faded to finish fourth after a fantastic start.
The standout performance of the night was by high jumper Bohdan Bondarenko, who threatened the 20-year world record held by Cuba’s Javier Sotomayor.
Despite failing at his only attempt to clear 7 feet, 11 1/2 inches, Bondarenko asked for the bar to be raised to 8-1 1/4 as he took aim at Sotomayor’s mark of 8-0 1/2.
The Ukrainian failed twice but still won the competition at 7-9 3/4.
In the 200, Warren Weir of Jamaica, who won bronze a year ago, edged compatriot Jason Young by 0.1 to win in 19.89. Wallace Spearmon of the United States was third in 20.18.
Nick Symmonds led a podium sweep for the United States in the 800 with a time of 1:43.67. Duane Solomon and Brandons Jones followed.
Olympic champion Kirani James of Grenada comfortably won the 400 in 44.65, beating Tony McQuay and Jonathan Borlee.
Zusana Hejnova warmed up for the athletics world championships in Moscow next month by cruising to victory in the 400 hurdles. The Czech won in a world-leading time of 53.07.
Perri Shakes-Drayton of Britain led going into the home straight but was overtaken by the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist on the approach to the last hurdle.
Shakes-Drayton was second. Georganne Moline edged out fellow American Kori Carter to finish third.
Shannon Rowbury ran the fastest time of the year in the 3,000 to lead a podium sweep for the United States, finishing in 8:41.46. Gabriele Anderson was second, just ahead of Molly Huddle.
Britain won the 400 relay in the fastest time the country has run in 12 years. Ashleigh Nelson anchored a team of Annabelle Lewis, Anyika Onuora and Dina Asher-Smith that finished in 42.69. Their slick changeovers helped them beat the All-Stars team of Aileen Bailey, Tiffany Townsend, Jeneba Tarmoh and Mandy White. France was third.
Brenda Martinez of the U.S. surged to victory in the 800, pulling clear heading into the home straightaway to finish in 1:58.19. Elena Mirela Lavric of Romania and American teenager Ajee Wilson were next.
Mary Kuria of Kenya clocked 4:08.77 to win the 1,500, ahead of Ibtissam Lakhouad and Katie Mackey.
Usain Bolt: Doping scandals ‘set us back’
LONDON (AP) — Usain Bolt believes the recent doping scandals in sprinting hurt the sport and insists he’s running clean.
The world’s fastest man stopped short of condemning fellow Jamaican sprinters Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson or American rival Tyson Gay, whose failed doping tests have left the sport in turmoil ahead of worlds.
“Definitely, it’s going to set us back a little bit,” Bolt said Thursday in London before a Diamond League meet — his first competition in the city since his three gold medals at last year’s Olympics. “But as a person, I can’t focus on this.”
Bolt said it won’t affect his preparations for the upcoming world championships In Moscow.
“I still have world championships, everyone is stepping up their game, so I have to really focus on that,” he said. “I am just trying to work hard, run fast and hopefully help people to forget what has happened and just move on.”
He’ll run the 100 meters Friday and 4x100 relay Saturday at the meet in London’s Olympic Stadium, which marks the one-year anniversary of the opening ceremony.
In his first public comments since news of the high-profile doping cases broke on July 14, Bolt promised that he won’t be the next sprint star to be embroiled in a scandal.
“I was made to inspire people and to run, and I was given the gift and that’s what I do,” the six-time Olympic champion said. “I am confident in myself and my team, the people I work with. And I know I am clean.
“So I’m just going to continue running, using my talent and just trying to improve the sport.”
If the recent cases have cast doubt about Bolt’s own integrity, the 100- and 200-meter world record-holder asked skeptics to check his record.
“If you were following me since 2002, you would know that I have been doing phenomenal things since I was 15,” the 26-year-old Bolt said. “I was the youngest person to win the world juniors at 15. I ran the world junior (200) record 19.93 at 17 ... I have broken every record there is to break, in every event I have ever done.”
Powell and Simpson tested positive for the stimulant oxilofrone at Jamaica’s national championships in June. Discus thrower Allison Randall and two other athletes also returned positives for banned substances at the same meet.
“It was surprising, definitely, what’s going on,” Bolt said. “I think there’s a lot of details that’s left to be discussed. So I’m just sitting and waiting to see the results and what’s what because there’s a lot of things that hasn’t been said and done yet.”
Bolt said he reached out through text message with Powell after the positive test was announced.
“I didn’t want to bombard him with questions,” Bolt said. “I told him, ‘Sorry to hear what was going on.’ And he said ‘Yes, it’s kind of rough, it’s hard.’
“And I just told him to stay strong and stay focused, and hopefully everything will work out.”
Powell was the last man to hold the 100-meter world record before Bolt broke it in 2008. He also helped the Jamaicans to the 4x100-meter relay gold medal at the 2008 Olympics.
In almost 20 minutes with reporters, Bolt avoided any direct criticism of his fellow athletes.
“In life things happen, people make mistakes, mishaps happen,” Bolt said in response to a question about doping sanctions.
Both Powell and Gay claim they failed drug tests because they trusted people they didn’t know well.
Bolt doesn’t doubt his inner circle and was astounded by the suggestion he could inadvertently be given a banned supplement and test positive.
“What?! I am clean,” Bolt shot back while insisting he only takes vitamins not supplements. “You have to be careful as an athlete what you do and what you ingest, the food you eat and stuff like that.
“But I am not worried because ... I have a great team around me to make sure everything go smoothly.”
Bolt was asked about the severity of doping sanctions, whether a two-year ban was too lenient.
“Drugs are harsh on the sport, I can say it’s really bad,” he said. “I don’t make the rules, really. I can’t determine how harsh the rules should be.”
While Bolt was speaking Friday, another doping case emerged involving a Jamaican sportsman.
The Caribbean island’s soccer federation said it was notified by FIFA that a player tested positive for a banned substance after a World Cup qualifying match against Honduras on June 11, which Jamaica lost 2-0. The player and the substance involved were not identified.
Sprinter Kim Collins, who is competing in the two-day meet, accepts that every athlete is now under scrutiny. He says the recent doping cases “leave a bad taste for all of us.”
“Everyone is judged and I will be judged running fast at my age,” said the 37-year-old Collins, a former 100-meter world champion from St. Kitts and Nevis.