Usain Bolt had to work hard for his 100 metres victory in 9.90 seconds at the Weltklasse Diamond League meeting in Zurich last night.
The double world and Olympic champion had the slowest reaction time out of the starting blocks, and was led deep into the race by fellow Jamaican Nickel Ashmeade, running two lanes to his left.
Bolt gritted his teeth and muscled through the slight headwind to hit the front at the 85-metre mark and edge ahead of Ashmeade, who clocked 9.94 for second place.
With a parade of new world champions in action, the sold-out Zurich stadium fell silent to watch Ukrainian high jumper Bohdan Bondarenko’s latest attempt to break the 20-year-old world record of 2.45 metres set by Javier Sotomayor of Cuba. However, Bondarenko crashed through the bar at 2.46. He had earlier won the event with a clearance at 2.33.
In a stirring women’s 5,000 metres duel between Ethiopian greats, Meseret Defar surged past Tirunesh Dibaba in the final straight.
Still, Bolt was the main attraction as usual and put on a typical pre-race act for the crowd, taking centre stage seconds after Bondarenko’s record attempt.
The sprinting superstar pressed his hands together in a prayer-like pose, head bowed before breaking into karate-style moves. He bowed again as the camera moved along the line.
On a cool evening, Bolt laboured at the start and a rare defeat seemed possible at halfway.
Yet Bolt allowed himself a smile on crossing the finish line, looking across to Ashmeade on his left and world silver medallist Justin Gatlin of the United States to his right. Gatlin was third in 9.96.
Speaking after the race, Bolt said: “I am tired. But the good thing is that everybody else is tired.
“But I’m happy, I’ve come out victorious and I’m continuing winning.”