Usain Bolt returned to the site of his last Olympic triumph, winning the 100m at the Anniversary Games on Friday in his best time this season after recovering from a slow start.
The world’s fastest man failed to leave the blocks promptly, but powered through the field at the Diamond League meet. He finished in 9.85 seconds at the stadium where he won three gold medals at last year’s London Games.
Bolt, who holds the world record in the 100m and 200m, is looking to do even better at the athletics world championships in Moscow next month.
“It [the start] was horrifying for me,” he said. “I think it is just race rust and I just need to get a few races in. The rounds in the world championships will help that and get my legs freer and a bit lighter. Hopefully, the coach will figure out what I need to do to get me more explosive out of the blocks, I guess.”
“For the first time, I think, in a long while, I was slightly nervous,” he said. “Initially, I was excited to come out because I knew it was going to be a big crowd, but when I got out there and I saw that it was ram-packed and the energy was still like the Olympics, it was just wonderful, so I was slightly nervous, but I loved the energy of the crowd. It was beautiful and I love competing here.”
Michael Rodgers was second in 9.98. Nesta Carter of Jamaica took third, 0.01 behind the American. Kim Collins of Saint Kitts and Nevis got off to a fantastic start, but finished fourth.
Bolt did a lap of honor before the meet started and was driven round the track on a contraption resembling a rocket on wheels.
With athletics reeling from a slew of doping headlines involving stars such as Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell, Bolt wants the focus to return to a happier narrative.
“I try to assist the sport to do great things and to show the sport in a good light, and that is what I’m here for,” the Jamaican said. “You guys are here to tell people that Usain Bolt is needed for the sport or whatever, but I am just here to do my best and to prove to the world that it is possible to run clean and train hard and be focused.”
The standout performance of the night was by high jumper Bohdan Bondarenko, who threatened the 20-year world record set by Javier Sotomayor of Cuba. Despite failing at his only attempt to clear 2.43m, Bondarenko asked for the bar to be raised to 2.47m as he took aim at Sotomayor’s mark of 2.45m.
The Ukrainian failed twice, but still won the competition with a leap of 2.38m. Erik Kynard jumped 2.36m to finish second, with Mutaz Essa Barshim next at 2.24m.
In the 200m, Warren Weir of Jamaica, who won bronze a year ago, edged compatriot Jason Young by 0.1 seconds to win in 19.89 seconds. Wallace Spearmon of the US was third in 20.18 seconds.
Nick Symmonds led a podium sweep for the US in the 800m with a time of 1 minute, 43.67 seconds. Duane Solomon and Brandons Jones followed.
Olympic champion Kirani James of Grenada comfortably won the 400m in 44.65 seconds, beating Tony McQuay and Jonathan Borlee.
Zusana Hejnova warmed up for the worlds by cruising to her fifth successive Diamond League victory in the 400m hurdles. The Czech won in a world-leading time of 53.07.
Perri Shakes-Drayton of Britain led going into the home straight, but was overtaken by last year’s Olympic bronze medalist on the approach to the last hurdle.
Shakes-Drayton was second. Georganne Moline edged out fellow American Kori Carter to finish third.
Shannon Rowbury ran the fastest time of the year in the 3,000m to lead a podium sweep for the US, finishing in 8:41.46. Gabriele Anderson was second, just ahead of Molly Huddle.
Britain won the 4x100m relay in the fastest time the country has run in 12 years.
Ashleigh Nelson anchored a team of Annabelle Lewis, Anyika Onuora and Dina Asher-Smith that finished in 42.69. Their slick changeovers helped them beat the All-Stars team of Aileen Bailey, Tiffany Townsend, Jeneba Tarmoh and Mandy White. France was third.
Brenda Martinez of the US surged to victory in the 800, pulling clear heading into the home straightaway to finish in 1:58.19.
Elena Mirela Lavric of Romania and US teenager Ajee Wilson were next.
Mary Kuria of Kenya clocked 4:08.77 to win the 1,500m, ahead of Ibtissam Lakhouad and Katie Mackey.
Yekaterina Koneva of Russia won the triple jump with a leap of 14.52. Kimberly Williams of Jamaica was second, with Hanna Knyazheva of Israel third.
Yarisley Silva of Cuba cleared 4.83m on her first attempt to win the pole vault. Jennifer Suhr of the United States, who leaped 4.73m, failed at that height.
In the absence of Olympic and two-time world champion Robert Harting, Piotr Malachowski of Poland won the discus with a throw of 67.82m. Martin Wierig and Gerd Kanter were next.