OSLO, Norway, June 6 – Usain Bolt’s pre-Olympic European roadshow touches down in the Norwegian capital on Thursday, the Jamaican track star aiming to ratchet up the pressure on pretenders to his double sprint crowns.
Bolt, the reigning Olympic 100 and 200m champion and world record holder in the two events, rebounded from a heavy-legged 10.04sec in the 100m in Ostrava with a blistering 9.76sec in last week’s Diamond League meet in Rome.
“I never doubt my ability, never. People forget, and I keep explaining to people, that athletes have bad days,” the 25-year-old said of his outing in the Czech Republic, which he still managed to win despite posting the slowest 100m time of his senior career, albeit in cold, blustery conditions.
“Every athlete can – cricket, football, any sport – you have bad days and that was just one of mine and I got past it and now I’m just moving forward.”
Bolt has seen compatriots Asafa Powell and Yohan Blake and American Justin Gatlin emerge as his closest rivals this season, and says the fact that the trio are also running fast was good not only for him but the sport as a whole.
“The season is still early. Everybody is running 9.8 so that’s good competition. 9.7 is also good for me,” he said.
“I’m happy with the way it is and just want to continue working hard and run faster so I’m looking forward to it. I’m ready to go.”
He added: “I will run my best and give the audience what they came here for.
“It was a good duel between Powell and me in Rome and I know that he is strong in the start. It is about technique and execution, so this will not be a problem on Thursday.”
Powell, the former world record holder who has dipped under the 10sec mark close to 80 times, will also be on the blocks at Thursday’s Bislett Games for his second race against Bolt in seven days.
Another star of the track will go in the 5000m: Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the reigning Olympic 5000 and 10,000m champion who is battling to rediscover his world-beating form after injury.
Bekele struggled in his season-opening 3000m in Doha last month, only finishing seventh, and he faces a tall order here, always a target for a slew of compatriots such as Imane Merga and Sileshi Sihine.
He improved to finish fourth in Eugene on Saturday, but was still more than three seconds off Briton Mo Farah’s winning time.
The famed Dream Mile will feature a familiar clutch of Ethiopians and Kenyans, led by world indoor bronze medallist Mekonnen Gebremedhin, Eugene 1500m winner Asbel Kiprop, also the Olympic champion, and Daniel Komen.
Australian world champion Sally Pearson will make her long-awaited European debut after choosing to remain in her native country for the early part of the season after also clinching the world indoor 60m hurdles title in March.
She faces a tough outing in the 100m hurdles against American duo Danielle Carruthers and Lolo Jones, Canadians Phylicia George and Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, as well as US-born Briton Tiffany Porter.
British heptathlete Jessica Ennis will also compete in her bid to sharpen up for the multi-discipline event.
Pearson, who claimed the world title in Daegu last year and was named the 2011 women’s athlete of the year, said she would arrive in Europe confident in her training to date and what lies on the road ahead before her bid to win gold in London in early August.
“It’s going to be a smashing field in Oslo. So many of the girls are running because it provides a chance to run heats and then a final. It will be really exciting.”