Usain Bolt was fast and impressive at the Athletissima Diamond League meeting on Thursday. Yohan Blake was fast and maybe even more impressive.
Bolt, the Olympic champion and world record holder over 100 and 200 meters, timed 19.58 seconds in the fastest 200 ever run at the speedy Lausanne track.
Yet he was almost overshadowed by Blake, his Jamaican friend and rival who 20 minutes earlier closed the gap between them in the all-time 100 rankings.
Blake, a two-time Olympic silver medalist behind Bolt, clocked 9.69 to become the joint second-fastest man in history.
“9.69 is a wonderful result,” said Bolt, who ran that time when setting a then-world record at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. “I knew he is going to push real hard tonight.”
Blake, fighting off a post-London Games cold, overcame a slight headwind to shave .06 off his previous best. He ran 9.75 to beat Bolt in the Jamaican Olympic trials in June and the same time again when his training partner finished in 9.63 to defend his Olympic title earlier this month.
“I knew I was fast and my coach told me I could run faster,” said Blake, who shares coach Glen Mills with Bolt. “Today I could finally prove it.”
Blake made a fast start and an impressive driving finish to equal the 9.69 run by Tyson Gay of the United States in 2009. Gay trailed in Blake’s wake Thursday, placing second in 9.83.
“I have been working for that. Now it all comes together,” Blake said. “My performance proves it.”
Still, Bolt’s world record of 9.58 to win gold at the 2009 world championships is at a different level, and his fooling on the start line Thursday suggests he is at ease with Blake’s challenge.
After playing air guitar for the television cameras, Blake used the 1.4 meters per second of wind assistance to set an Athletissima record, 0.26 behind his gold medal-winning time in London.
“This season has not always been great but I’m thrilled with the way it is finishing,” Bolt said.
In the women’s 100, Carmelita Jeter reversed the London placings with Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica in a photo finish with both timing 10.86. The American silver medallist never led until attacking hard at the line, as Fraser-Pryce lost her lead by failing to make the dip she needed for victory.
“Basically, it was an Olympic final,” Jeter said. “It was an epic moment, but I thought I got to bring this home.”
Dawn Harper earned another United States victory in the 100 hurdles, and Olympic champion Kirani James of Grenada confirmed his superiority in the men’s 400, clocking 44.37 in a comfortable victory.
One gold medallist who never got to race was 110 hurdles champion Aries Merritt, who was disqualified for a false start. That left another American, Olympic silver medallist Jason Richardson, to step up for the victory in 13.09.
An exceptional men’s high jump fought for attention with the men’s sprints, and Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar equaled the season’s best leap of 2.39 meters to win. That mark was set by Ivan Ukhov of Russia, the Olympic champion, who placed second on Thursday, two centimetres back.
Barshim had finished in a three-way tie for third in London. Another bronze medallist, Robbie Grabarz, also cleared 2.37 matching the British record to place third.
Valerie Adams of New Zealand, the only Olympic champion without a gold medal, won the shot put with a meet record in the final round of 20.95 meters 25 centimetres beyond her London performance.
Adams must wait to receive her medal until original winner Nadzeya Astapchuk of Belarus, who tested positive for a steroid, completes an appeal against her disqualification by the International Olympic Committee.
Other Olympic gold medalists winning women’s field events Thursday were Barbora Spotakova of the Czech Republic in the javelin and triple jumper Olga Rypakova of Kazakhstan. Brittney Reece of the United States was beaten into fifth in the long jump won by Russia’s Yelena Sokolova.
Kaliese Spencer of Jamaica won the 400 hurdles, and Kenyans won the middle-distance events- Pamela Jelimo, the 2008 Beijing Olympic champion, won the 800 and Mercy Cherono took the 3,000 race.
Paul Kipsiele Koech led a Kenyan sweep in the 3,000 steeplechase, and compatriot Silas Kiplagat won the men’s 1,500.
Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie of France won the pole vault on a countback as four men cleared 5.80 meters.