Usain Bolt says he needs to “get it together” if he plans on making further history on Saturday night in the 100m event by winning a 12th world title.
Lining up for his last competition pre-retirement, the Jamaican super sprinter struggled out of the blocks in Friday night’s 100m heats at the World Championships in London, but recovered to win it in 10.07 seconds.
“Overall the start was poor, as always, but I need to get it together because in the shape I’m in, I have to really get into the race to really get going so I can win if I want to. So I’ve got to stay focused and hopefully everything comes together tomorrow,” said Bolt, who clocked the seventh-fastest time in the heats.
The 30-year-old’s rival, Justin Gatlin, who served a four-year ban reduced from eight for doping from 2006-10, ran 10.05sec to edge closer to a showdown with Bolt in Saturday night’s final, and later paid tribute to the eight-time Olympic gold medalist and world record holder.
“It’s going to be history-making, he’s done so much for the sport, I’m just glad to be able to be one of his rivals and also come out here and just have a good time with him, having a laugh in the back,” said Gatlin of Bolt. “So it’s not really tension, it’s just really going out there and having a gentlemen’s rivalry, that’s what it is.”
Watch Bolt’s 100m heat and listen to his and Gatlin’s comments ahead of the semi-finals.
Mo Farah’s hopes of winning his third successive world championship distance double could be in jeopardy after requiring medical treatment following Friday’s epic victory in the 10,000m.
The 34-year-old British legend won despite being spiked twice in the final lap — the first saw him almost come to grief and fall into the infield — and which resulted in blood pouring from his left calf.
The Somalia-born runner, who prior to Friday’s victory had racked up two Olympic and world doubles as well as the 2011 5,000m world crown, tried to shrug off the battering he had taken but still curtailed media committments so he could be attended to by medical staff.
“I am hurt, I just have to be strong now and see the doctors,” said Farah.
“I’ve got a few cuts and bruises, perhaps I will need a few stitches, I need to recover and get ready, I’ve got enough days” before the 5000m heats which are on Wednesday and the final on Saturday.
Farah though rejected notions that the spiking was deliberate.
“I’ve got such a long stride I don’t blame anyone,” he said.
“I recalled how I went down in Rio (in the 10,000m after which he got up to win). I got caught twice and I was thinking ‘I can’t go down I can’t go down’.”
Jamaican sprint star Usain Bolt overcame a “very bad” start to successfully kick off the defence of his world 100m title on Friday, but American arch-rival Justin Gatlin was jeered by the British public.
Bolt, seeking a 12th world title in his swansong season, found himself fifth halfway into the blue riband event before putting on the afterburners to win his heat in 10.07 seconds.
“That was very bad,” Bolt said. “I stumbled coming out of blocks, I’m not fond of these blocks.
“I think they’re the worst ones I’ve ever experienced.
“I have to get this start together because I can’t keep doing this. It’s shaky. When I did my warm up it (the blocks) pushed back. It’s not what I am used to.”
Bolt v Gatlin at the 2012 Olympics at the same London stadium had been billed as ‘good against evil’, given the American’s doping-tainted past, and so it again proved.
Gatlin, the last man to beat Bolt over 100m — by a hundredth of a second in Rome in 2013 — was met with loud booing and jeering when shown on the big screen before his heat and after he cruised through in a winning time of 10.05sec in his heat.
“It’s not the panto season,” the stadium announcer pleaded to the packed-out 60,000 seater London Stadium as a bemused-looking Gatlin made a sharp exit from the track.
“I’m not worried about the crowds. I just focus on my start and my race,” said Gatlin.
“I am just here, seeing my teammates, seeing my countrymen and just having a good time.”
Bolt had no complaints about his welcome, however, describing the crowd as “always wonderful”.
“They always show me so much love and I always appreciate being here,” he said.
“I’m excited about getting through to that final and doing my job to my best.”
Bolt will be joined by Jamaican teammates Julian Forte, the sole sprinter to go under 10sec with 9.99, and Yohan Blake, who capitalised on Bolt’s sole hiccup at global events since winning at the Beijing Olympics — a false start — to be crowned 2011 world champion in Daegu.
The 35-year-old Gatlin, who served a four-year ban reduced from eight for doping from 2006-10, will be joined in Saturday’s semi-finals by compatriots Christian Coleman, who has this season’s fastest time of 9.82sec, and Christopher Belcher.
Japan’s Abdul Hakim Sani Brown clocked 10.05sec to win his heat ahead of Blake, while China’s Bingtian Su also won to ensure a healthy Asian presence in Saturday’s races.
But South African Thando Roto, with an impressive best of 9.95sec this season, was disqualified for a false start, fancied teammate Akani Simbine also having to sneak in as one of the fastest qualifiers.