PARIS // Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell go head-to-head for the first time this year in the 100 metres at the Diamond League meet here tonight. The Jamaican sprinters, who share the fastest time this year, 9.82secs, meet in a much anticipated showdown at the Areva meet at the Stade de France.
"Asafa Powell taking the start, plus runners like Yohan Blake and Daniel Bailey, I know the 100 will be a great race," Bolt said. "My goal will be not to lose this race. I plan to go 9.7. It should be a good race. Asafa is ready." Following an Achilles tendon injury, Bolt returned to competition in Lausanne on July 9 and clocked 9.82. Powell matched that time on June 10 in Rome. The Stade de France race will be Bolt's third 100 competition of the season.
"I no longer feel the slightest discomfort as far as my Achilles tendon goes," Bolt said. "I'm, however, remaining careful and being really attentive during training sessions. According to my doctor, I should be running at 100 per cent again in two or three weeks." Powell is the last man to have beaten Bolt in the 100, two years ago in Stockholm. Bolt, the Olympic and world champion and world-record holder in the 100 and 200, said he improved after that defeat.
"My coach used to say that you have to learn how to lose before knowing how to win. Looking back at the race, I figured out where I made mistakes and I worked on correcting them," Bolt said. Powell was overtaken in the final metres by Tyson Gay at the British Grand Prix last weekend, but Bolt believes his rival will be dangerous. "Asafa has proven to be highly consistent this season, with a fair number of times close to the 9.80 mark. He is waiting for me."
Bolt said his rivalry with Powell is purely a sporting one. "Asafa and I are enemies on the track, but we're very close outside competition," he said. "We like to get together and to spend time in each other's company, and even rap together." Christophe Lemaitre, who set a French national record in the 100 last week when he clocked 9.98, will try to cope with the pressure in front of his home crowd.
Lemaitre, 20, will run for the first time at the Stade de France and will be gearing up for the European championships later this month in Barcelona. "I'm very eager to compete against [Bolt and Powell]," Lemaitre said. "I consider it as an opportunity to test myself prior to the European championships, and to gain experience." Bolt said that Lemaitre is now "up with the big boys" after breaking the 10-second barrier.
Bolt set a Stade de France record last year, clocking 9.79 in cool weather and steady rain. His world record, set at the world championships last year, is 9.58. Dayron Robles, the defending Olympic champion and world-record holder in the 110m hurdles, pulled out of the meet because of leg problems. The American David Oliver will be the main attraction in that race. Oliver clocked the season's best time, 12.90, at the Prefontaine Classic in Oregon. Robles's world record is 12.87.
No world record has ever been set on the fast Stade de France track. The American Jeremy Wariner, whose season has been disrupted by knee surgery, will be competing in the 400m after setting a world season best of 44.57 at Lausanne. "My training shows that I can run in 43 seconds now," Wariner said. "But my main goal is to try to run faster than in Lausanne." In the women's competition, the American Allyson Felix will run the 200 after winning the 100 at the US championships and the 400 at the Prefontaine Classic.
"My goal this season is to set new personal records in the 200 and 400," said the two-time Olympic silver medallist in the 200. "I definitely want to double at the London Olympics. I don't know if it's realistic. We'll see." * AP