Sport/France - Paris Golden League

No world record but stylish Bolt doesn't disappoint

Reuters

Usain Bolt had promised “something special” for the fans at the Stade de France and, while he didn’t manage to break his own world record, he certainly put on a memorable show.

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The event organisers had plastered posters of Bolt all over the French capital to promote Friday’s Golden League meeting, and with good reason too. A world star in the prime of his career, the charismatic Jamaican will draw a crowd wherever he goes.

Bolt had kept his part of the deal in the build-up, tantalisingly suggesting that his record run of 9.69 seconds could conceivably be bettered any day he took to the track. He did qualify that by saying it depended on the weather, however, and organisers and supporters prayed that the storms forecast to hit Paris would fail to materialise.

In the end, 46,500 expectant spectators paid in to watch the world’s fastest man run on French soil. The 22-year-old received a deafening ovation when he was introduced and, at that stage, just before the event started at 7.30pm, the weather was just about holding up.

Now in his own open-air theatre, the triple Olympic champion had no problem getting into character. The carefree star danced on the track, posed for the cameras and joked with other athletes. When earlier in the week he had discussed the importance of putting on a performance for the fans, he wasn't just talking about the athletics.

About twenty minutes before the 100 metres event, the predicted downpour finally began and we knew that any chance of seeing a world record fall on the night was probably gone with it. But in worse conditions in Lausanne last week, Bolt had run an incredible 19.59 seconds in the 200 metres. As he had told the crowd earlier, "anything is possible".

When he took to the track for the 9.40 pm race, the noise in the stadium cranked up another notch. And once the race got underway, it was as if the crowd was sucking Bolt towards the finish line. When he reached it, there was a split second of silence as all eyes locked on the clock to see his time: 9.79 seconds.

It wasn’t a world record but it was still breathtaking. Despite running in heavy rain and into a headwind – not to mention having got off to a particularly slow start – Bolt had clocked the second fastest time in the world this year. As French sports daily L’Equipe’s back page headline put it on Sunday, he ran like “a fish in water”.

Worringly for Bolt’s rivals in next month’s world championships in Berlin, he said he still only feels at “85 per cent”.

“I think overall it’s a good time, definitely” he said after the race. “I’m happy with my time. You can’t do anything about the weather and the world championship will be in Berlin, so I think it’s good for me to get some running in the rain because you never know what the weather will be.”

Whether it rains or shines in Germany, it’s sure to be quite a spectacle if Usain Bolt is around.

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