LONDON – Usain Bolt did what he needed to do and precious little more in the 200-meter semifinals Wednesday night.
Bolt, working on a double-double of the Olympic 100 and 200s from Beijing and London, positioned himself to complete that unprecedented feat on Thursday night in the final. His time of 20.18 won his heat with a minimum of obvious effort, slowing to a jog with about 20 meters left.
But he will have serious competition in the final. Countryman Yohan Blake ran a 20.01-second 200 while completely shutting down the jets in the final 20 meters. In fact, he was nearly caught at the line by the onrushing tandem of American Wallace Spearmon (20.02) and Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre (20.03). Clearly, Blake can go much faster – his personal best is 19.26, and he upset Bolt in this event in the Jamaican national trials – but the same cannot be said for certain of Spearmon and Lemaitre.
There had been speculation that the perfect weather conditions Wednesday night – clear skies, moderate temperatures and no wind – might spur Bolt to go after his own world record time of 19.19 or Olympic record of 19.30 in the semis. But it was obvious coming off the turn that the sprint king was not going to expend too much energy without a gold medal on the line.
Bolt already has given Blake fair warning that he will be up against it Thursday night: “I’ve told Yohan Blake that the 200 meters is going to be different because the 200 is my pet event, I’ve said that to him already. And I’m not going to let him beat me again. Trials woke me up. Yohan gave me a wake-up call. He said, ‘Usain, this is an Olympic year, wake up.’ So I’m happy and I’m grateful for that moment because after that I refocused and I got my head together and I got my head in the game.”
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