Beside the river that winds through the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the promoters of the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games had constructed a beach resort, a valiant attempt to recapture the glorious summer of 2012 when this part of London became the sporting capital of the world.
Flooded, drenched, any available buckets and spades were commandeered last night to scoop water from the track. But on his return from injury, Usain Bolt floated above the fray, dispelling the doubts about his fitness and form by stopping the clock at 9.87 seconds in his 100m heat before matching the time in a victorious final run.
I’ll be in Beijing without a doubt. I’m ready to go and I’m ready to win. That’s my focusUsain Bolt
It was not quite his supreme best. With the world championships in Beijing five weeks away, this was a huge leap forward in his quest to thwart American challenger Justin Gatlin.
“It was a poor start but overall it was an OK race,” said Bolt, who was followed by Britain’s CJ Ujah in a lifetime best of 9.96. “I can be pleased with that. I’ll be in Beijing without a doubt. For me it’s about hard work and dedication. I’m ready to go and I’m ready to win. That’s my focus.”
Mo Farah let his actions speak louder than words after the recent travails surrounding his coach, Alberto Salazar, setting the quickest 3,000m time of this year of 7:34.66 in what bodes well for his title defence in China.
“I’m pleased with tonight,” he said. “I felt a bit tired at the start and I didn’t feel that good. But you try and win the race and not think about times. It’s great to win.”
Jessica Ennis-Hill will decide whether to go to China after testing her fitness in the long jump and 200m today but she looks likelier than ever to head east after recording a season’s best of 12.79 in coming fifth in the 100m hurdles. Steph Twell, already qualified for the 5000m in Beijing, came ninth in the 1500m as Laura Weightman took a brilliant win.
In today’s action, Chris O’Hare will aim to secure automatic qualification for Beijing in the mile and Edinburgh AC clubmate Lynsey Sharp gets a dress rehearsal for her global tilt in the 800m, while fellow Scots Rhona Auckland, Beth Potter and Laura Whittle are in the 5000m.
However, Guy Learmonth’s world championships hopes were left high and dry last night after he was left out of today’s 800 metres, ending his chances of going to China. However, the UK indoor champion, who had begged organisers for a place after smashing his personal best this week, has vowed not to be left in the cold at Rio 2016.
“I’m going to have a big flurry until the end of the season,” the Borderer said. “I want to race right to the bitter end, into September. There are a good few races in mainland Europe. I know I can hit the time. It’s about the opportunity but it’s going to be too late now.”
l Sebastian Coe has unveiled plans for a six-figure payout to every athletics federation in the world, if he achieves his goal of becoming the next president of the IAAF in a vote at the governing body’s congress in Beijing next month.
The double Olympic champion, who is in a two-way race with Ukraine’s pole vault legend Sergey Bubka, has pledged his Olympic Athletics Dividend – carved from the profits distributed from London 2012 – will support grassroots efforts around the globe.
His plan, however, will also be focused on raising the profile of a sport which has waned amid the rise of football and the blows landed from a series of doping scandals that have hurt public trust. It is only through the stellar popularity of Bolt, he acknowledges, that track and field has remained above the parapet.