Four years ago, Usain Bolt came to London and departed with triple gold. Just another day at the Olympic office for the greatest sprinter the world has ever known. On his return last night for the Muller Anniversary Games, the Jamaican had points to prove. That is he is fit, that he is injury-free, that he remains an imperious force of nature as the defence of his realm looms large.
His victorious performance in the 200 metres shredded the doubts. The 29-year-old accelerated clear of his rivals and kept his foot firmly on the floor, winning in a time of 19.89 seconds but with promises of refinements in Rio.
“I’m getting there, I’m not fully in shape, I need more work,” he said. “But over time I’ll be fine, I’ll just keep doing the work. I tried to go for the kerb but I don’t think I executed well. The key thing is I came out here and won but I’m always hungry for more.”
Eilidh Doyle came unstuck in her final dress rehearsal as she trailed in fourth in the 400 metres hurdles. The Scot was in sight of the perfect send-off for Rio when she took the lead on the home straight but stuttered out of the final barrier as world No 1 Dalilah Muhammad snatched victory.
“I concentrated a bit too much maybe, and mucked it up,” Doyle said. “I’ll watch that back hundreds of times, you learn more from mistakes like that. Those are the races I watch back more. I will be back more confident and look to nail it in the first round of the Olympic Games.”
Chris O’Hare insisted he will be fit for Rio despite coming last in the Emsley Carr Mile, revealing he had picked up a knee injury while training in France that hindered his hopes. “I’ve only really been able to train the past two days,” the Boston-based Scot revealed.
“The plan was to run a strong race instead of sitting back because I can do that in training. That’s what we were looking for and it didn’t work. I got to 600m to go but I felt I was in a training session instead of a Diamond League meeting. It’s not that I’m unfit. I’ve just not done enough to sharpen up.”
Ahead was Jake Wightman who audaciously claimed fourth place as Kenya’s Silas Kiplagat headed the field. He will watch Rio from home. This was too little too late. “I should have done that two weeks ago,” he said. “That’s going to leave me even more motivated for next year.”
Bolt had earlier insisted he was “never really worried” his hopes of competing in Brazil might be in danger, despite admitting he would probably have torn his hamstring “really badly” had he competed at the Jamaican trials. He defended his visits to 73-year-old Dr Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt, whose unorthodox methods – including his use of homeopathy and injections of calves’ blood – divide opinion.
Bolt said: “He’s the only person I’ve been to over the years that has figured out a way to make sure my back is okay and I can compete and I can stay on track.
“I’m tested all the time, years upon years. I got tested this morning. The IAAF (athletics’ world governing body) test me all the time, WADA (the World Anti-Doping Agency) test me, everybody tests me.
“I have all the trust in my doctor and I support him 100 per cent.”
Bolt will bid for an unprecedented “triple triple” of Olympic 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay crowns in Rio, although he could yet lose his sprint relay gold from Beijing 2008.
His Jamaican team-mate Nesta Carter was last month named in reports as one of the athletes to have retrospectively failed drugs tests taken at the Beijing Games and, if he is stripped of his gold, then it would almost certainly mean all of his relay team-mates, including Bolt, also forfeiting their medals from the event.
“It will be a little bit disappointing (to lose a medal),” Bolt said, “but rules are rules. What can I do?
“I’ve shown over the years that I’m the greatest athlete and that’s the key thing.”