PARIS, FRANCE, August 24 – Usain Bolt is the headline act for the World Athletics Championships in Daegu, but the Jamaican sprint star has warned that more world records are not likely to be on the cards.
The 24-year-old went one better at the last world championships in Berlin in 2009, incredibly winning another double also in world record times (9.58 and 19.19sec respectively).
But an injury lay-off has put paid to any thoughts he harboured of going even faster in the August 27-September 4 worlds in South Korea, Bolt at pains to remind fans he is “only human” and that constant expectations of quicker times are unrealistic.
“I’m Olympic and world champion. My goal is to defend my titles,” Bolt said.
“But I’m never going to get to 9.58sec this season, I’m not at the same level as two years ago. I’ll try to get a 9.7sec or maybe 9.6.”
Indeed, it is teammate Asafa Powell who owns the season’s fastest time over 100m while American arch-rival Tyson Gay has been ruled out because of injury and Jamaican Steve Mullings can but watch from home because of a second doping offence.
Things look brighter for America’s women sprinters, with Carmelita Jeter the top performer in the year at 100m and hungry for a first major international gold. Jeter will also chase 200m gold, as will season-leader Shalonda Solomon and three-time defending champion Allyson Felix.
Felix, however, will enter uncharted territory in Daegu as she bids for a 200m-400m double at a worlds that will feature 1,945 athletes representing 202 national teams.
Aside from Gay and Mullings, the championships have also been robbed of defending champions Mbulaeni Mulaudzi of South Africa (men’s 800m) and Russian Yaroslav Rybakov (men’s high jump).
Stand-out performers Jeremy Wariner of the United States (400m) and Frenchman Teddy Tamgho (triple jump) will also be absent through injury.
But there is a list of mouth-watering events, not least so in the men’s 110m hurdles, where Cuban world record holder and Olympic champion Dayron Robles goes against American David Oliver and Chinese superstar Liu Xiang.
LaShawn Merritt, back from a doping ban of almost two years, will defend his title in the men’s 400m, a race that will prove memorable because double amputee Oscar Pistorius of South Africa has qualified to take part.
Pistorius left it late to book his ticket, making the qualifying time at the final request. That also qualified him for the London Olympics in 2012, and the humble 24-year-old was left elated by his feats.
“This will be the highest profile and most prestigious able-bodied event which I have competed in and I will face the highest calibre of athletes from across the planet,” said Pistorius, who had both legs amputated below the knee for medical reasons when he was 11 months old.
The South Africa team also features Caster Semenya, who sprinted to the women’s world 800m crown two years ago but quickly found herself entangled in a maelstrom of seedy allegations that saw her cast into limbo because of doubts over her true gender.
The 20-year-old Semenya, who clocked a jaw-dropping personal best of 1:55.45 in storming to victory at the 2009 Berlin worlds, was stood down soon after and remained on the sidelines until July 2010.
She was revealed to be a hermaphrodite after the leaking of test results following her 800m win in Berlin.
One athlete not making the flight for Daegu, however, will be sprint veteran Merlene Ottey, the 51-year-old Jamaican-born athlete having failed to qualify for the 4x100m with her adopted country Slovenia, meaning she will be unable to add to her 14 world medals.