MONTE CARLO, Monaco, July 23- Usain Bolt, the world’s best known athlete, came within centimetres of suffering only the third defeat of his professional career but laughed off any worries ahead of the world championships.
Bolt suffered a shocking start and opening half of the 100m at Friday’s Diamond League meeting here, but rebounded with his renowned ‘drive phase’ to claim a narrow victory from compatriot Nesta Carter in a season’s best of 9.88 seconds.
His two previous defeats came at the hands of the now-injured American Tyson Gay last year and Jamaican compatriot Asafa Powell in 2008, both in Stockholm.
But Bolt said he was not concerned with his slow comeback from injury ahead of the August 27-September 4 world championships in Daegu, South Korea, where he will bid to emulate his triple gold sprint showing from Berlin in 2009.
“I’m not worried about either the 100m or the 200m, my best event,” said the 24-year-old, although he picked out what parts of his 100m needed work when he went back to training at London’s Brunel University.
“I’m getting better. I’ve dramatically improved over the last 60 metres. I need to work on my first 40 metres, specifically the first 20 metres.”
Bolt had joked before the meeting that if he could take one thing from another sprinter, it would be team-mate Powell’s traditionally electric start.
And how it looked like he needed it at a packed Louis II stadium, the sprint star down on the field at halfway with Carter and American Michael Rodgers in pole.
But the reigning world and Olympic double sprint champion responded magnificently to cross the line less than a head up to wrap up his three victorious outings over 100m this season before Daegu.
“It’s always key to keep winning. I’m never going to get to 9.58sec this season, I’m not at the same level as two years ago,” said Bolt, in reference to the 100m world record he set in the 2009 Berlin worlds.
“I’ll try to get a 9.7sec or maybe 9.6.”
The Jamaican made it clear that the Daegu worlds were one small step on the way to the 2012 Olympic Games in London, where, like the worlds, he will attempt to repeat his triple gold medal showing from the Beijing Games.
“I’m working my way up to the Olympic season, to being fit and ready then. London is the key,” Bolt said.
“I came into this race but didn’t execute well. I had to work hard and concentrate.
“There are some little things to work on. I have time before the world championships and I will continue to do my best.”
Bolt could not afford to showboat or ease up as he sometimes does, and he even had to sneak a look across the line to see where Carter was.
“I thought I had him, but in the last 20 metres I messed up right there,” said Carter, who missed out on an individual 100m spot for Jamaica at Daegu but who will still be on the relay squad.
“But I can take confidence from a good race and look forward to the next event.”
Rodgers came in third in 9.96sec, with another Jamaican, Michael Frater, in fourth at 10.01, two-hundredths ahead of France’s double European sprint champion Christophe Lemaitre.