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 100m and 200m, timed 19.58 seconds in the fastest 200m 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 100m rankings.
Blake, a two-time Olympic silver medalist behind Bolt, clocked 9.69 seconds 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 0.06 seconds off his previous best. He ran 9.75 seconds to beat Bolt in the Jamaican Olympic trials in June and the same time again when his training partner finished in 9.63 seconds 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 seconds run by Tyson Gay of the US in 2009. Gay trailed in Blake’s wake on Thursday, placing second in 9.83 seconds.
“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 seconds to win gold at the 2009 world championships is at a different level and his fooling on the start line on Thursday suggests he is at ease with Blake’s challenge.
After playing air guitar for the television cameras, Bolt used 1.4mps of wind assistance to set an Athletissima record, 0.26 seconds 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.
However, the season is unlikely to climax with another Bolt v Blake match. They are set to avoid each other in the final two Diamond League meetings.
In the women’s 100m, Carmelita Jeter reversed the London placings with Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica in a photo finish with both timing 10.86 seconds.
The American silver medalist never led until attacking hard at the line, as Fraser-Pryce lost her lead by failing to make the dip she needed for victory.
Dawn Harper earned another US victory in the 100m hurdles, while Olympic champion Kirani James of Grenada confirmed his superiority in the men’s 400m, clocking 44.37 seconds in a comfortable victory.
One gold medalist who never got to race was 110m hurdles champion Aries Merritt, who was disqualified for a false start. That left another American, Olympic silver medalist Jason Richardson, to step up for the victory in 13.09 seconds.
An exceptional men’s high jump fought for attention with the men’s sprints, with Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar equaling the season’s best leap of 2.39m to win. That mark was set by Ivan Ukhov of Russia, the Olympic champion, who placed second on Thursday, 2cm back.
Barshim had finished in a three-way tie for third in London. Another bronze medalist, Robbie Grabarz, also cleared 2.37m — matching the British record — to place third.