Usain Bolt battled the cold and a headwind as he was forced to come from behind to beat Asafa Powell in 9.77 seconds on Friday in a season farewell 100m at the Van Damme Memorial.
Running into 1.3mps headwind, the Olympic champion had a bad start and immediately saw Powell shoot ahead of him. In his last race of the season, however, nothing was going to stop the world record holder from spoiling his farewell party in Europe.
Halfway through he pulled level with Powell and then his huge stride took over, finishing just 0.08 seconds off the world record he set at the Beijing Games. It was the fastest run ever into a headwind and matched the sixth-fastest time in history despite the chilly temperature.
Powell, the only runner to have beaten Bolt this season, finished second in 9.83 seconds. Nesta Carter made it a Jamaican sweep in 10.07 seconds.
“Asafa is a really fast guy. I’m getting used to chasing him,” Bolt said.
Powell, who had beaten Bolt in Stockholm this summer, took the loss well and celebrated with Bolt along the track, cheered by the sellout 47,000 crowd at the King Baudouin Stadium.
Bolt had long warned he feared the cold and it was just 15ºC at the start. Even his trademark showboating moves could not warm him up and when the starting gun went, he froze, getting dead last out of the blocks.
Such is his superiority though, that he can compensate whatever he loses within a mere five seconds. Once Powell saw him next to him, he knew he was done.
“I came out to run fast,” Powell said. “Usain really put on the pressure.”
Bolt won the 100m and 200m and ran in the Jamaican 4x100m sprint relay, winning three gold medals and setting a world record in each of his races in Beijing.
If it was just a season’s farewell for Bolt, it was farewell for good for double European sprint champion Kim Gevaert.
Before an adoring home crowd, she won the 100m in 11.25 seconds, hampered by the conditions. She easily beat Debbie Ferguson of the Bahamas and Me’Lisa Barber of the US. Afterward, she was given a minute-long standing ovation by the sellout crowd.
On top of her European titles in the 100m and 200m two years ago, Gevaert also anchored the Belgian sprint relay team to a silver medal at the Olympics and bronze at last year’s world championships.
Paul Kipsiele Koech failed to qualify for Kenya’s Olympic team, but he left Beijing gold medalist Birman Kiprop Kipruto trailing in his wake as took the 3,000m steeplechase in 8 minutes, 4.99 seconds, more than five seconds ahead of his countryman.
With Ethiopian Olympic champion and world record-holder Kenenisa Bekele taking a break, Beijing silver medalist Eliud Kipchoge led a sweep of Kenyans in the 5,000m, finishing in the rain in 13 minutes, 6.12 seconds.
“Today, I had great legs and I’m just disappointed the weather was not good to set a much greater time,” Kipchoge said.
In the women’s 5,000m, Meseret Defar sought to avenge her loss to Ethiopian teammate Tirunesh Dibaba in Beijing by recapturing the world record from her compatriot. Instead, Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya beat her in a sprint finish.