Arguably the greatest sprinter in the history of the sport, Usain Bolt is set to take on his rivals in the semi-finals of World Athletics Championships 2017 in London.
Bolt will be joined by Jamaican teammates Julian Forte, the sole sprinter to go under 10sec with 9.99, and Yohan Blake, who capitalised on Bolt’s sole hiccup at global events since winning at the Beijing Olympics—a false start—to be crowned 2011 world champion in Daegu.
The 35-year-old Gatlin, who served a four-year ban reduced from eight for doping from 2006-10, will be joined in Saturday’s semi-finals by compatriots Christian Coleman, who has this season’s fastest time of 9.82sec, and Christopher Belcher.
Japan’s Abdul Hakim Sani Brown clocked 10.05sec to win his heat ahead of Blake, while China’s Bingtian Su also won to ensure a healthy Asian presence in Saturday’s races.
But South African Thando Roto, with an impressive best of 9.95sec this season, was disqualified for a false start, fancied teammate Akani Simbine also having to sneak in as one of the fastest qualifiers.
The semi-final of London World Athletics Championships 2017 will start at 11:35 PM IST and can be viewed at Hotstar in India.
Qualifiers on Friday
Jamaican sprint star Usain Bolt overcame a “very bad” start to successfully kick off the defence of his world 100m title on Friday, but American arch-rival Justin Gatlin was jeered by the British public.
Bolt, seeking a 12th world title in his swansong season, found himself fifth halfway into the blue riband event before putting on the afterburners to win his heat in 10.07 seconds.
“I stumbled a bit coming out of blocks, I’m not fond of these blocks,” he told the BBC.
“I have to get this together. It’s shaky because when I did the warm up it (the blocks) pushed back. It’s not what I am used to.”
Bolt v Gatlin at the 2012 Olympics at the same London stadium had been billed as ‘good against evil’, given the American’s doping-tainted past, and so it again proved.
Gatlin, the last man to beat Bolt over 100m—by a hundredth of a second in Rome in 2013 -- was met with loud booing and jeering when shown on the big screen before his heat and after he streaked through in a winning time of 10.05sec in his heat.
“It’s not the panto season,” the stadium announcer pleaded to the packed-out 60,000 seater London Stadium as a bemused-looking Gatlin made a sharp exit from the track.
Bolt's last swansong
The 4x100m relay race on August 12, will be Usain Bolt’s last ever professional race, the reigning Olympian announced in 2015.
Usain was initially set to retire after the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, but his sponsor convinced him to make one last effort at the Athletics Championship in London.
"My sponsor has asked me to go on for another year; to 2017 and London," he announced.
"But I'll be doing one event, the 100. I've already discussed it with my coach. I can concentrate on that, and on retiring on a winning note."
He holds the world record in the 4x100m relay, is the first person to hold both the 100 metres and 200 metres world records and is the fastest human alive.
His undefeated records are 9.8 seconds in the 100m, 19.19 seconds in the 200m and 36.84 seconds in the 4x100m.