Six-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt said he would review the key ingredients missing from his race after being pipped to victory in his first 100m outing in Europe this season by US rival Justin Gatlin.
Gatlin came into the Rome Golden Gala expected to challenge the 100m world record holder (9.58 seconds) on the back of two wins in the opening two legs of the Diamond League in Doha and in Eugene.
Meanwhile, Bolt was making his first appearance on the continent since his recent recovery from a hamstring injury.
The Jamaican surprised himself with a strong start, but soon had trouble finding the required rhythm and later admitted his traditionally strong finish was absent.
Bolt, who is to next compete in Oslo at the Bislett Games before returning to Jamaica on Friday next week, said he felt no twinge from his hamstring during the race, but felt “a little sore” afterwards.
However, he admits he has work to do ahead of the world championships in Moscow later this summer.
“I got a great start. I think the fact that I did threw me off a little,” Bolt said. “Normally the last 50 [meters] is the best part of my race, but it wasn’t there.”
“But I’m not worried. I wanted to find out where I was at here and now I will go home and look at the tape, see where I went wrong, and come out and do better next time,” he added.
Gatlin’s weaker start did not stop him clinching the win with a dipped finish in a time of 9.94 seconds, his third win in the Diamond League this season.
However, the 2004 Olympic champion, who once served a four-year ban for doping, admitted his technique is also a work in progress.
“Last season I was a really good starter, this year, it’s been a little slower,” the American said. “I’m trying to get that back and get the middle of my race stronger. I just want to stay healthy. It’s a long season ahead.”
Olympic champion Allyson Felix settled for second in the women’s 200m, where Murielle Ahoure of Ivory Coast clocked a new national record on her way to the win.
The African made the most of the absence of Jamaicans Veronica Campbell-Brown, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the Olympic silver medalist in London, and Sherone Simpson to clock a time of 22.36 seconds.
“I’m very excited and the national record is a big bonus for me,” Ahoure said.
Felix finished second in 22.64 seconds and admits her focus is on sealing her place in the US team.
“I’m taking a different approach this year, taking more time off, so I was a little off,” Felix said. “I’m trying to make the [US] team, run the 100 and 200 [in Moscow]. I’ll stay patient. It’s what happens down the season that counts.”
US athletes topped the podium in a number of key events, with Lashawn Merritt winning the men’s 400m ahead of Saudi Arabia’s Youssef Ahmed Masrahi.
Merritt said: “I would say I’m the favorite for the world championships, if nobody else will say so.”
Dawn Harper-Nelson won the women’s 100m hurdles ahead of compatriot Lolo Jones, while Johnny Dutch literally threw himself over the line to clinch the men’s 400m hurdles. Olympic champion Christian Taylor won the triple jump with a leap of 17.08m.
All eyes were on Croatia’s former Olympic high jump champion Blanka Vlasic and Russia’s reigning world and Olympic high jump champion Anna Chicherova as the pair duelled for the first time in two years.
However, Vlasic, returning to competition after a 20-month absence due to injury, ultimately had to settle for third as Chicherova and compatriot Svetlana Shkolina shared victory after efforts of 1.98m.
Vlasic’s best jump was 1.95m and she said: “I’m satisfied with my performance. I’ve improved my season’s best and it’s another stepping stone. I’m happy to be back.”
Ethiopia’s Yenew Alamirew powered down the home straight to win the men’s 5,000m ahead of teenage compatriot Hagos Gebrhiwet in a time of 12 minutes, 54.95 seconds, slashing 10 seconds off the best time of the year so far.
France’s Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie had to settle for second in the men’s pole vault after his leap of 5.86m was bettered by German rival Raphael Holzdeppe, who sailed over 5.91m.