There were a couple of surprises, and no double-winners, in the 2011 World Championship sprint competition. It was the first World Championship since 2003 that a man didn’t turn the 100-200 double, even though Usain Bolt
was heavily favored to do so.
After an injury-filled 2010 season, Usain Bolt said he wasn’t in top condition heading into the 2011 World Championships. But Bolt at 80 or 90 percent was still the class of the field, by far, after Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell both dropped out due to injury. Bolt, as usual, cruised through the 100-meter preliminaries, then fired off the line in the final – too quickly, as it turned out. As the race was halted, Bolt tore off his jersey immediately, knowing he had false-started and was disqualified from the race. Suddenly, the gold medal was up for grabs among the remaining seven finalists.
When the race re-started, however, Jamaica’s Yohan Blake let everyone know that the gold wasn’t up for grabs – it was his. Blake, the fastest semifinalist at 9.95 seconds, ran a blazing 9.92 into a 1.4 meters-per-second wind to win by .16 over American Walter Dix, who rallied to edge bronze medalist Kim Collins (10.09).
On the women’s side, Carmelita Jeter won her first major international championship. Running into a 1.4-meters-per-second wind, Jeter took the lead late in the race to win in 10.90 seconds. Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce started fast and led most of the way but faded in the closing strides and had to settle for fourth. Veronica Campbell-Brown surged to the silver (10.97) while Kelly-Ann Baptiste earned the bronze (10.98).
Since Bolt’s false start six days earlier, observers had been looking ahead to his comeback in the 200. Bolt’s response was understandable caution at the start – he was the last runner to leave the blocks, seven-hundredths of a second behind Rondel Sorrillo. But Bolt caught up to Sorrillo and the rest of the field quickly, taking the early lead and running hard to the finish to win in 19.40 seconds, the fourth-fastest time ever, at that point (Bolt owns the world record
of 19.19 seconds). Dix, running next to Bolt, had a strong run and took his second silver of the Championships in a season-best 19.70, with Christophe Lemaitre third in a French-record 19.80. The runners were slightly aided by a .8-meters-per-second wind.
Meanwhile, 100-meter champion Jeter wasn’t able to pull off a sprint double, settling for second in the 200. Campbell-Brown started fast and led until the final straight, when Jeter pulled about even. But the Jamaican had a higher gear left and crossed the line in 22.22, running into a 1-meter-per-second breeze. Jeter was second (22.37) while three-time defending champion Allyson Felix took third (22.42).
The women’s 400 was a battle between Amantle Montsho and Felix. Both ran personal bests, with Montsho setting Botswana’s national record. Felix started fast in Lane 3 and made up the stagger on Montsho, in Lane 4. Montsho then surged ahead. Felix remained a stride behind through most of the second 200 meters before closing at the end, but Montsho hung on to win in 49.56, to Felix’s 49.59. Anastasiya Kapachinskaya took third in 50.24. Defending champion Sanya Richards-Ross – recently returned from an injury – was never a factor, finishing seventh in 51.32. The question remains whether Felix might’ve earned a gold in Daegu by focusing on one World Championship event, rather than attempting the 200-400 double.
The second-biggest sprint surprise of the Championships occurred in the men’s 400, where Kirani James, two days short of his 19th birthday, began his celebrations early by winning the gold medal. James tracked down defending champion LaShawn Merritt, who led most of the way, finally catching the American in the final half-dozen strides to win in a personal best 44.60 seconds, making him the third-youngest World champion in history. Merritt was second (44.63), with Belgium’s Kevin Borlee taking the bronze (44.90).