Walter Dix

Rivals, respect: Bolt comes up big, again, in 200


BEIJING — Usain Bolt defeated Justin Gatlin in the men’s 200 Thursday night at the 2015 world track and field championships, running the best time in the world this year, 19.55 seconds, to win hands-down.

If the result of this big-time showdown had been the other way around, if Gatlin had won, would earthquakes and tsunamis roil the planet? Would sinkholes swallow up large towns? Meteors flash across the sky?

Of course not.

Gatlin finished in 19.74. Just as he did in the 100 Sunday night, Gatlin lost his form — this time, about six steps from the finish — but managed to keep it together enough for second.

Usain Bolt wins the men's 200 // Getty Images

What happened Thursday, same as Sunday, amounted to great sport and, no small thing, great theater. Bolt yet again proved his worth. And Gatlin proved he is a worthy rival.

That’s great for track and field.

Gatlin on Bolt: "I have nothing against Usain. He is a great competitor. A competitor as myself — you know, you look for that. You look to be able to get pushed to your limits, to get pushed to the best times you can run.

"At the end of the day," Gatlin continued, "when you are like 45, 50 years old, and you retire, you want to look back and say, you know what? That guy right there, you helped make history with this guy, helped push him and he pushed you to be a better athlete."

 "I have no problem with Justin Gatlin," Bolt said. "He is a competitor."

If Bolt doesn't have a problem with Gatlin, this simple question: why should anyone else?

Bolt also said of Gatlin, "He talks a lot. I have noticed over the years. But that’s just who he is. I’ve noticed that in the lead-up to a championship, he’s going to say a lot of stuff. But after the championships, he confuses you, you feel like he is your best friend."

Track and field too often can find itself in a marginalized niche, a once-every-two- or four-years-thing. The 200, and other events Thursday, offered precisely what the sport needs: big-time stars, and rivalries, and expressed respect.

Allyson Felix, for instance, moving up from the 200 to the 400, exploded from the start in Lane 6 and put on a sprinting clinic to win in 49.26, a 2015 world-best time. Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas took second in 49.67, Shericka Jackson of Jamaica third in 49.99.

The 400 victory made for the ninth world championship gold of Felix’s stellar career. Let the debate begin now in earnest about whether the schedule at next summer's Rio Olympics can be shuffled around so that she can run both the 200 and 400.

In a news conference, Felix was asked the secret not just to her success but her longevity. Simple, she said -- "to be hungry, to be passionate" about sprinting and winning.

Allyson Felix winning the 400 // Getty Images

In the triple jump, American Christian Taylor, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist, set a new American record, 18.21 meters, or 59 feet, 9 inches, in a competition that -- right before the women's 400 and men's 200 -- seemingly captivated everyone at the Bird’s Nest.

That 18.21 is the second-longest jump in history. Britain’s Jonathan Edwards went 18.29, 60-0 1/4, in 1995. The American record had stood for 19 years: 18.09, 59-4 1/4, Kenny Harrison, to win Olympic gold in Atlanta in 1996.

Christian Taylor after winning the triple jump // Getty Images

Second went to Cuba’s Pedro Pichardo, 17.73, 58-2.

"It was a great fight," Taylor said. "I saved it until my last jump."

The 2008 Olympic champ, Portugal’s Nelson Evora, grabbed third on his final jump, a season-best 17.52, or 57-5 3/4. The American Omar Craddock had to settle for fourth, 17.37, 57 feet even.

On Sunday in that 100, Bolt had defeated Gatlin by one-hundredth of a second in a race that far too many billed as a contest between “good” and “evil,” Bolt caricatured as “good” in this made-up morality farce, Gatlin as “evil.”

As things got underway Thursday night, Bolt, announced to a huge roar, kissed the “Jamaica” on his jersey. Gatlin made kissing motions, then “ran” with his hands, also greeted by cheers.

For all the noise about the 100, the 200 has long been Bolt’s preferred race. In Lane 6, he got out of the blocks without incident — he can be a slow starter but not Thursday — and then, coming down the stretch, powered home for the victory, the fifth-fastest 200 ever.

The last time Bolt had run a 200 under 19.6? August 23, 2012.

"The 100 is really for the people, for my coach," Bolt said, "and the 200 is for me."

Earlier this year, Gatlin had run a 19.57. But not this night.

That 19.74, however, is no small thing: it made for the second-fastest non-Bolt time ever at a world championships. The American Walter Dix ran 19.53 at the worlds in Daegu, South Korea, in 2011.

Third place Thursday went to South Africa's Anaso Jobodwana. He ran a national-record 19.87.

The photo finish of the men's 200, with Usain Bolt way ahead // photo courtesy Seiko

To reiterate the obvious:

Bolt runs big on the big stage, and has ever since he burst onto the world scene here at the Bird’s Nest in those Olympics seven long years ago. But for his false start at those 2011 Daegu worlds, he has won virtually everything — 100, 200, 4x100 — at every major meet since, worlds or Olympics. (The U.S. team won the 4x100 at the World Relays this past May, Gatlin running second for the Americans, Bolt anchor for the Jamaicans.)

Bolt is also thoroughly charismatic. He has made “To Di World” a pose recognized the world over.

Bolt got tangled up with a cameraman amid the post-race festivities. No harm, no foul, he said: "I'm fine. It's all fine."

Post-race, a barefoot Bolt doing his thing // Getty Images

The two-dimensional depiction of Bolt as “good,” it must be emphasized, depends on two things:

One, that he is running clean.

The most, though, that anyone can say about Bolt that he has never tested positive.

That is a long, long way from a guarantee of anything.

To be clear, that's by way of explanation, not accusation; moreover, it must be stressed that nothing has surfaced that would link Bolt to anything undue.

That said, when it comes to the Jamaican track and field landscape, no one, least of all in the media, can be assured of any guarantees; that's too much of an ask given the structural deficiencies that have plagued the Jamaican anti-doping infrastructure, and its woeful lack of testing over the years.

The second point to consider: track and field is not, as some like the chief sports feature writer for the Daily Telegraph, the English newspaper, would have it, a moralistic reflection on athletic piety or purity.

It never has been.

The history of the ancient Olympics in Greece makes that plain.

As David Wallechinsky writes in his authoritative book on the modern Games, "The use of performance-enhancing drugs and concoctions by athletes is nothing new,” noting that the winner of the 1904 Olympic marathon, Thomas Hicks, an English-born brass worker from Cambridge, Massachusetts, “was administered multiple doses of strychnine and brandy during the race.”

Fast forward to Ben Johnson in Seoul, in 1988.

And the BALCO scandal in the United States some 12 years ago.

And allegations now about blood doping in countries around the world.

Track and field, like any enterprise, has its good points — its very, very good points, indeed — and some not so good.

This, then, is what follows logically:

Things in track and field, as in all spheres in life, are not simply susceptible to a reduction of good and bad, black and white, yes or no.

If Bolt can be depicted as a hero — have at it, if you want to.

The same, though, for Gatlin — for years, he has been a study in humility and courage, working his way back from the embarrassment and shame, indeed the mortification, of two doping positives.

Redemption is just as powerful a lesson as anything, and for anyone. Who goes through life without mistakes?

Gatlin’s agent, Renaldo Nehemiah, told the BBC,  “He has humbled himself for months and months. It was never widely reported so people don't believe he has made amends or apologized."

Late Thursday, Nehemiah in an interview, said, "Consider the woman who’s afraid the man who’s coming home is going to beat her -- she's reading all this, realizing [Gatlin] is a fighter, he’s standing tall.

"That’s where the lessons can be learned. There are so many people who can look at this and say, wow, this guy has persevered through relentless criticism -- criticism that was heaped on him unfairly."

To carry the inquiry further — if Bolt is the “saviour of the sport,” as the British track and field Athletics Weekly blared in its front-page headline after the 100, what would have been the case had Gatlin prevailed Thursday night? Would Bolt personally be to blame for any and all ills the sport might confront?

Of course not. This is why the entire construct is not just completely absurd and over-the-top ridiculous but entirely unfair — to Bolt, to Gatlin and, moreover, anyone.

Further, what gets lost in the depiction of Bolt as “good” or Gatlin as “evil” is elemental: facts.

And with facts come context.

And nuance.

In the real world, these things matter.

Anyone in the public eye deserve these things, at the very least.

Gatlin’s first positive test came in 2001, when he was 19, for prescription medicine he was taking for attention-deficit disorder.

As for the second, a testosterone pop in 2006, it makes much more sense upon a read of the record — all of which is publicly available in a federal courthouse in Pensacola, Florida — to infer that the positive test may well have resulted from a shot or a pill, administered by assistant coach Randall Evans, the injection witnessed in person by coach Trevor Graham.

Graham is of course one of the central figures in the BALCO case.

There is no support in the record for the assertion that a massage therapist rubbed steroid cream on Gatlin. That theory, according to the documents, came from Graham.

Facts. They really matter, or at least you’d like to think so.

In that same column in the Telegraph, written by the paper’s chief sports feature writer, under a headline that declares Gatlin is a “bothersome impediment to athletics’ rehabilitation in the eyes of a jaded public” — absolutely not one bit of which is supported by any factual assertion — the column declares about Gatlin, “He has not had to reimburse any of the money that he earned during the time when he was found to have doped.”

Nehemiah, Sunday night, under the Bird’s Nest: “He never stole any money. When he got banned, he never ran another race.”

The set-up to that line about Gatlin’s finances, again from the Telegraph column: “What exactly constitutes payback in his case?” Then, after the line about reimbursement: “The damage he has suffered is purely reputational. This, when it comes to administering any kind of potent deterrent to dopers, is not enough.”

In Gatlin’s 2007 hearing stemming from the 2006 test, Nehemiah would testify that the second test cost Gatlin “5, 6 million dollars.” Gatlin, Nehemiah said, had grossed $1.549 million in 2005; projections in 2006 alone, the agent said, were for “anywhere from $2.5 to $3 million.”

As for payback?

Why is any sort of “payback” a thing? Payback does not equal deterrence. That is simply illogical, it being a maxim of legal theory that sanctions exist for four purposes: retribution, incapacitation, deterrence and rehabilitation.

Payback is not making someone a villain because it suits an easy narrative. That’s grossly unfair.

At any rate, you want deterrence?

Five to six million dollars and four years out, humbling yourself by teaching 8-year-olds in and around Atlanta how to run — that’s powerful deterrence.

You know what else is important in reporting about these kinds of things? Consistency.

Another high-profile sprinter who got busted in the BALCO scandal, as all familiar with track and field would know: the British star Dwain Chambers.

After a lot of legal to and fro, Chambers was ultimately cleared again to run.

Earlier this year, the Telegraph included Gatlin on a list of what it called “the most hated sportsmen in the world,” a “sport-by-sport breakdown of the most loathsome individuals.”

Indeed, in the piece published Wednesday: "Any drugs cheats who decide to revive their careers must accept that it is their lot to endure a reception rife with suspicion and innuendo."

Here, just last year, after he won the British 100 meter championship, was this same newspaper, a different reporter at the byline, hero-making on Chambers:

“After the athletics season last year Chambers climbed Mont Blanc in support of the charity Teens Unite and he revealed the experience had given him the mental strength to keeping racing. ‘I’ve climbed many mountains, haven’t I? And fallen down a few,’ he said. ‘But I still keep standing. Climbing that mountain was for a different cause, but it showed me a lot about myself. That was a lot of pressure. I was scared, because any false slip I was a goner. I had to keep my wits about me. But doing that made me believe and understand that I can do anything.

‘I was totally out of my comfort zone, walking 250 [meters] up an hour. It normally takes me about 25 seconds to do that. But it was a real test of character for me and it’s given me the ability to still come out here and compete.’ "

Even more, last August from the European track and field championships in Zurich, here was the writer now designated the chief sports feature writer, after first describing Chambers as “avowedly reformed and ever-complex”:

“Once ostracized, Chambers has been accepted back into the fold due to the apparent sincerity of his contrition.”

Fair is, you know, fair.

Recognizing what he was up against coming into this meet, Gatlin acknowledged late Thursday, "It was never my intent to come to these championships and and try win over any fans or change the view of who I am. My intent was to come here and compete to the best of my abilities. That's what my job is.

"I think the people saw a different view of me: you know, I'm just a competitor, man. I have no ill will toward Usain, no ill will towards anybody. We have all worked very, very hard all season long, just trying to stay away from injury. And just get out there and run 9 seconds, run 19 seconds, and get on that podium. Mission accomplished.

"I came out of here with some hardware," he said. Now it's time "to get ready for the 4x100 and get ready for Rio."

Where Bolt and Gatlin, all things being equal, get to go at each other again. It's all good.

Wallace Spearmon's soulful 19.95

Wallace Spearmon Jr. has always been one of the most soulful guys on the track and field circuit. He runs with heart. He speaks from the heart. If only he could stay healthy, he could capture America's heart.

Maybe this is his year.

A few days ago, at the UTA Bobby Layne Invitational meet in Arlington, Texas, attended by track geeks along with wives, girlfriends, cousins, aunts and uncles and a few dozen other people who apparently thought that hanging out at a track meet might beat going to the mall, Spearmon ran the 200 meters in 19.95 seconds.

That was a world-leading time.

A note:

No one -- but no one -- runs 19.95 in March.

That 19.95 was the earliest anyone has recorded a sub 20-second time in the Northern Hemisphere, according to USA Track & Field.

A second note:

At that same meet, Spearmon's training partner, Darvis "Doc" Patton, ran a 10.04 100. That was the fastest 100 of the year.

A third note, and this -- particularly if you know track and field, and the potential of both these athletes -- borders on the amazing:

That race -- you can watch it, as well as Patton's, here -- was the first time in 2012 Spearmon had been in spikes past 90 meters.

"This is top-secret info," Spearmon said with a laugh. "We have been doing 30s, 40s, maybe 60s. 90 meters is the farthest I had run in spikes all year. I had been wearing flats," adding a moment later, "In that race I felt sloppy."

Spearmon also said, and here he was back to his serious self, "I have never been 100 percent. This is the first year people are starting to see what I am capable of. I have no idea what I'm capable of. I want to find out."

Spearmon has always had talent. No one has ever doubted that.

His father was the 1987 bronze medalist in the 200 at the Pan Am Games, and in college, at Arkansas, Wallace Jr. won the NCAA title in the 200 in 2004 and 2005.

Running the 200 at the world championships, he won silver in 2005, and bronze in 2007 and 2009.

Again in the 200, he finished in the bronze position at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. But then he was disqualified for stepping out of his lane.

That 2008 DQ claws at him still.

"I dreamed as a child of being an Olympic medalist. Not a world championship medalist.

"Not to take anything away from that. I have between four and eight [world championship] medals. I need that one from the Olympics. If I can get that one from the Olympics, and then when my career is over, I can say I achieved what I was after."

Last year, Spearmon was hurt -- a bad Achilles. That's why there's no "2011 world championship medal" among the string.

That's why, too, he's being cautious and yet aggressive about 2012.

"Doc came up to me the other day and said, 'You want to go home?' I said, 'I just want to go to practice and run 'til I can't walk anymore.' This is how I express myself."

"Typically at practice, I am The Man," Patton said, reflecting on his own long career in the sport. "I run the times. Now he comes in and runs faster than I do. We feed off each other."

Patton also said, "I think that if we both stay healthy, God willing we stay healthy, we are going to have a great year. And we are having fun."

You can see the fun in a series of YouTube videos that peel back the curtain on what Spearmon and Patton have been doing this year, along with others in their training group and coach Monte Stratton.

Tyson Gay, according to ESPN, won't attempt to make the U.S. team in both the 100 and 200; Gay, the 2007 100 and 200 world champ who himself has been dogged by injury, said he plans to focus only on the 100.

Spearmon said he hopes Gay is in the 200. Along with Walter Dix, the 2008 Beijing 100 and 200 bronze medalist and 2011 world championship 100 and 200 silver medalist. And anyone else. All comers.

"If I am ever going to medal," he said, "I would want everyone there, everyone at their best. That way you wouldn't be able to say, 'Oh, he only won because so-and-so wasn't there or this guy had a bad day.'

"I love to compete … I love track and field but I love to compete. Track and field has given me an opportunity to compete."

And he said, "Man, not to toot my own horn, I am trying to be humble and modest, I am healthy. I am healthy for the first time in a long time."

Let Bolt run

DAEGU, South Korea -- It's my fault, and only my fault, for false-starting in the 100, Usain Bolt said. He also said, and he was not boasting nor was he being disrespectful, that he believes he would have run in the 9.6s or maybe 9.7-low and that without the false start his teammate Yohan Blake, who went on to win the 100 in 9.92, would have run 9.8.

Got that?

He, Bolt, intimated that he would have won the 100. Absolutely, positively, unequivocally, he would have won.

That is because he, Usain Bolt, is the best.

After watching Bolt run the fourth-fastest 200 of all time Saturday night -- 19.40, and from Lane 3, a lane he said he had never run in before, a tighter lane that required more from him than Lane 5 or 6, where he usually operates -- who wants to argue the point?

That is the shame of the false-start rule that robbed everyone in the entire world of the thrill of watching Bolt in the 100.

That rule will be up for debate here Sunday. Don't expect much. The IAAF president, Lamine Diack, told Reuters on Saturday there is "no chance" the rule will be changed by next summer's London Olympics.

"I think it was Bolt disqualified by false start -- I did not expect this. [But] I work for this rule. I like very much this rule. I vote for having this rule."

Why? Two reasons. One, because of gamesmanship by the athletes in the blocks under the prior rule, which charged a first false start to the entire field; only a second led to disqualification of the particular athlete. Second, and perhaps even more important, such manipulation was dragging proceedings out, which made the timing of meets unpredictable for TV.

The president has a point.

But the president is not facing the withering criticism here that he would be facing were Bolt to have been booted from the Olympics themselves.

I haven't canvassed anyone at NBC on the matter but it stands to reason that for the hundreds of millions of dollars the network paid for the rights to broadcast the London Games -- they'd very much like to see Usain Bolt run the 100. If it takes an extra four minutes, I'm guessing they'd be willing to accommodate that.

Same goes for the other major networks in other countries around the globe.

The Olympics are different than the world championships. It's that simple.

It's not as easy to say, as the president would like, that the rule is the rule, and that's that, particularly when his primary rationale -- that it's better for TV his way -- doesn't cut it.

In London in 2012, it wouldn't be better for TV. In fact, it would be worse. Way worse.

The essential point is that the Olympics needs stars, and in particular track and field needs stars. Bolt and Michael Phelps are the biggest stars there are in the Olympic sphere. People want to see them. Why do you think NBC is paying hundreds of millions of dollars?

It's not -- and no offense to their fans -- for team handball.

So let's be real. Whether in Olympic Park or watching on TV, fans should be able to see Bolt do his thing.

That's what Bolt was talking about at that news conference. He knows, we know, even Yohan Blake knows who the best sprinter in the world is.

It's not Yohan Blake.

For public consumption, by the way, Bolt played it perfectly Saturday night. He said he would not be lobbying for a rules change. He said, "It has taught me a lesson to focus and to stay in the blocks," adding, "You should wait and listen. The guy with the gun is the guy who gives the commands … I have learned and wish to move on from that."

He learned so well, in fact, that his reaction time. 0.193, was by far the slowest in the field Saturday evening. And still he blew everybody away. Walter Dix of the United States took second, in 19.7. Christophe Lemaitre of France got third, in 19.8.

Bolt's best time in 2011 in the 200, coming into the worlds, was 19.86. He improved that here by 46-hundredths of a second. The man is lights-out fantastic at championship meets.

Bolt now owns three of the four fastest-times ever in the 200. He ran 19.19 in Berlin, at the 2009 worlds. He ran 19.30 at the 2008 Games. Michael Johnson ran 19.32 in Atlanta, at the 1996 Games.

With a better lane in the finals, and better fitness, it's not inconceivable that Bolt can run even faster than 19.19 in London next summer. "I'm going to work hard," he said.

Everybody deserves to see the results of that. It's that simple.

Usain Bolt's epic disqualification

DAEGU, South Korea -- Usain Bolt false-started, and Yohan Blake, his Jamaican training partner, won the men's 100-meter world championship title in a race that immediately created a sensational controversy sure to linger to and through the London 2012 Olympic Games. Whether that controversy is good for track and field, a sport that desperately needs stars and on Sunday by rule excused its biggest star from its biggest event -- all that remains to be seen.

"Looking for tears?" Bolt said as he was leaving the stadium. "Not gonna happen. I'm OK."

Blake flew to an easy win in 9.92 seconds just after Bolt false-started. Under a rule that was passed in 2009 and that went into effect in 2010, a regulation that some track and field insiders had warned would inevitably produce a result just like this, one false start now leads to immediate disqualification.

Inevitably came Sunday night in Daegu.

Bolt false-started. He knew it immediately. His face turned into a scream. He ripped his shirt off as a roar of disbelief echoed around the stadium.

He threw his arms up in apparent disgust. His hands over his head, he was led backstage. There he slammed the blue stadium wall.

Justin Gatlin, the American sprinter, had suggested beforehand that the 100 final would be "epic." Turned out he was right -- but what a crazy context.

The show must go on. And, after the shirtless Bolt was led off, it did. But no one in the world thinks Yohan Blake is the world's best sprinter.

Against the six other guys he raced, yes, Yohan Blake was by far the best.

Would he have beaten Usain Bolt?

What, when all is said and done, is the point of a world championships race?

What, when all is said and done, is the point of a rule?

American Walter Dix took second, in 10.08. The first third of the race was the worst, Dix said: "… I kept sitting in the blocks and I couldn't move. That false start was killing us. And hopefully it will change by London. I really didn't think they would kick him out … they have him on every poster."

Kim Collins of St. Kitts and Nevis, the 2003 100 world champion, took third here Sunday, in 10.09. He, too, said the rule ought to be changed: "Not because of [Bolt] but because of what it's doing to the sport."

Then again, it's precisely because of what it was doing to the sport that the rule was changed to one-and-done.

From 2001, track and field worked under a two-strike principle. The first false-start in a particular race was charged to the field. Only if there was a second false-start would that particular athlete be disqualified.

The practical consequence of the two-strike rule was a lot of twitchy gamesmanship.

In 2009, the IAAF, track and field's governing body, had seen enough. It ordered the one-and-done, effective January 2010.

Swimming works on a one-and-done -- and, it must be said, swimmers stay on the blocks.

In the first two days of the 2011 track worlds, though, there have already been three extraordinary false-start disqualifications.

Christine Ohuruogu, the 2007 world champion and 2008 Olympic gold medalist in the 400, was disqualified in Saturday's 400 heats. She sat on the stairs leading to an interview zone for 20 minutes, then said, "I'm broken. You can all see I'm broken. I have nothing else to say. I false-started. I have worked really hard. I came here. I false-started."

Earlier Sunday night, in the semifinals of the men's 100, Dwain Chambers, the world indoor sprint champion, was eliminated when he false-started.

And, now, Bolt.

It must also be said that IAAF officials are appropriately even-handed in their application of the rule. If it can take out Bolt, it can take out anyone.

Now the question: is that a good thing?

Three years ago, at the Olympic Games in Beijing, Bolt ran 9.69, a world record, in the 100.

Two years ago, at the worlds in Berlin, he ran 9.58, a world record staggering in its achievement.

This year, he has been running slower. No one expected a world record. Pretty much everyone, however, expected victory.

Even Bolt, who before the race went through his by-now familiar showman's shtick. He pretended to fly down the lanes like an airplane. He smoothed his hair and scraggly beard to make himself look good for the cameras. When he was introduced, he pointed left and right and shook his head no, as if to say, no way those guys are gonna win, then pointed down the track to suggest it was all him.

He settled into the blocks, crossed himself like he usually does. At that point, Usain Bolt is all business.

This time, though, he jumped the gun.

The biggest event in track and field is the men's 100, and the biggest star is Usain Bolt, and, as Kim Collins said, "The people want to see him -- they want to see him do it," meaning run like he does, and set those records when he can, "and do it again."

One-and-done not only can but, it is surely proven, will take out even Usain Bolt for a twitch. What now, if anything, should track and field do about that?

Usain Bolt awaits

DAEGU, South Korea -- American Walter Dix, running in sunglasses at night, was so in command and control that he could look left and right as he cruised down Lane 2 to a strong and easy victory Saturday night in his heat of the men's 100-meter dash. He said afterward that he had come to Daegu "to win three gold medals," in the 100, the 200 and the relays. In his heat, another American, Justin Gatlin shook off freezer burn around his ankles to earn an automatic qualifier spot. He declared afterward that Sunday night's 100 final would "probably be one of the most epic world championship we have ever seen."

Confidence is of course a good thing when you have to run against Usain Bolt.

The issue is whether confidence, or anything, matters.

The 2011 version of Bolt is not 2009 or, for that matter, 2008. Even so, the Bolt who was on display Saturday night looked lethal enough. He ran the night's fastest time, 10.10 seconds, and did so though he jogged the final 50 meters.

The men's 100 heats capped a thoroughly full first day here at the world track championships that also saw Americans Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee standing 1-2 halfway through the decathlon, Eaton with 4446 points, Hardee with 4393.

In other performances:

-- All four American women moved through to the next rounds of the 400, led by  Sanya Richards-Ross, in 51.37, and Allyson Felix, in 51.45.

"I feel really healthy, the best I've felt in a long time," Richards-Ross, the defending world champion, said.

"I felt controlled," Felix said of the first race in her 200/400 double. "I wanted to establish a fast 150, then go from there. It was a little bit quicker than what I hoped for but I wanted to make it as easy as possible. I feel good, and excited to get started."

-- Britain's Christine Ohuruogu, the 2008 Beijing gold medalist and 2007 world champion in the 400, false-started and was disqualified. She sat on the stairs leading down into the alley called the "mixed zone," where athletes meet the press, for nearly 20 minutes. She just sat there, in disbelief.

When she came through the zone, she said, "I'm broken. You can all see I'm broken. I have nothing else to say. I false-started. I have worked really hard. I came here. I false started."

-- Incredibly, Kenyan women swept the medals, six-for-six, in the marathon and 10,000 meters.

Edna Kiplagat, who had won the New York marathon last fall, won here in 2:28.43. Priscah Jeptoo took second, Sharon Cherop third.

No nation had ever swept the medals at a worlds or Olympics.

Prior to the Kenyan finish in that marathon, none had even managed a 1-2 finish.

Then came the 10k.

The Kenyans didn't just go 1-2-3.

They went 1-2-3-4:

Vivian Cheruiyot won in 30:48.98, a personal best, followed by Sally Kipyego, then by defending champion Linet Masai. Priscah Cherono finished fourth. Ethiopia's Meselech Melkamu, the African record-holder, took fifth.

All of that, and then came the men's 100 heats.

Jamaican Asafa Powell is not here, purportedly with a groin injury. American Tyson Gay is hurt. Further, American Mike Rodgers and Jamaican Steve Mullings are out because of doping-related issues. The field isn't what it could be.

"Epic" remains to be seen.

Dix, it must be said, looked solid, in 10.25. He said, "I wanted to come out of the blocks well so I could finish easily. That was a great race for me," and it was.

Bolt, it must also be said, remains Bolt.

Dix raced in Heat 2, Bolt in 6.

Before Bolt lined up in Lane 4, he pretended to brush back his hair in an imaginary mirror, to make himself prettier for the cameras. He shot both index fingers as if they were guns. He smoothed his hair back again.

He settled his silver shoes into the blocks, his sponsor logo trimmed in gold. The gun went off, he exploded out and, essentially, the race was over.

Dwain Chambers, over in Lane 8, who came in second in that heat, in 10.28, was asked later if he thought Bolt might be vulnerable.

He said, "I don't think so."

Track needs rivalries -- but now no Bolt v. Gay

Perhaps more than anything, track and field needs rivalries, and when Tyson Gay pulled himself out of the men's 100-meter dash Friday evening at the U.S. track and field championships in Eugene, Ore., it signaled yet another serious blow to the sport's effort to become anything but increasingly marginal. It is no fun to write such things.

Here's how much I like track and field: My wife and two daughters were out of town. The son was over at a friend's for the evening. I had the house all to myself. What did I do? I was one of precisely 3,067 people nationwide enduring the online live-stream of the field events while simultaneously checking the as-they-happened results from the sprints on another website -- which inexplicably were being held back for showing later on ESPN.

Earlier this month, after the Prefontaine Classic, I wrote a column that essentially said track was going nowhere fast in the United States. I proposed some suggestions for change., among others, linked to my column; the message boards there picked it up, one of the posters declaring I was an idiot.

Maybe. But that's why I have two dogs. They don't care.

Possibly, though, after more than 10 years of covering track and field, I have picked up a few things.


Unless and until someone else runs in the 9.6s, as Tyson Gay did, Usain Bolt stands alone in the sprints.

That's not healthy.

It's not healthy for Bolt and it's not healthy for track and field.

Obviously, Gay's problem is in fact his health -- now his hip. Frankly, he has had such a succession of injuries over the past few years that it's not clear, really, whether he can get it back together in time for the Olympics next year.

Where does that leave the state of the sport?

It's far from improbable that the Jamaicans take the top-three spots at the 100 at the world championships late this summer at Daegu, South Korea.

Good for Jamaica, maybe.

Good for track? Uh, no.

Again, the sport needs rivalries, and in particular in its marquee event, the men's 100.

None of the Americans is even within shouting distance of Bolt right now.

Walter Dix, who won the U.S. title on Friday in 9.94, is a really good sprinter, the bronze medalist in both the 100 and 200 in Beijing. His personal best in the 100 is 9.88; problem is, that's a full three-tenths of a second behind Bolt's world-record 9.58.

Michael Rodgers, the 2009 U.S. national champion, ran 9.99 Friday to earn the third U.S. slot at the 2011 worlds. His personal best is a 9.85, at the Pre three weeks ago.

The guy who finished second Friday in Eugene, Justin Gatlin, in 9.95, is of course the 2004 Olympic champion. He is back from a four-year doping ban.

Gatlin has every right to run. He has served his time.

But meet promoters in Europe have made it plain he's still not welcome there. And his appearance in Daegu, wearing red, white and blue with "USA" on it -- which, again, he has earned -- is guaranteed to spark a rash of stories in the feral British press and elsewhere that will a) compare his case with that of Dwain Chambers, b) with that of Marion Jones, c) rewind the Trevor Graham saga, and d) remind one and all that the U.S. track scene suffered for years from doping and wonder if the current crop of athletes, despite well-known advances in testing, can be said to be competing cleanly.

To the dismay of USA Track & Field, it will be no great surprise if one or more stories manages to wrap in e) all of the above.

Track needs to move out of precisely that morass.

Maybe Bolt can run even faster than 9.58.

But he doesn't seem in 2011 to be building toward a lightning strike the way he was in 2009 and 2008; his early-season times in those years were far more suggestive than this year's.

Beyond which -- he simply can not do everything for the sport all by himself. Nor should he be expected to do so.

He needs a rival.

Especially in the United States. Now, though, Bolt v. Gay, the sort of thing that might have gotten track onto the JumboTrons at football stadiums -- just the way Michael Phelps' swim races were shown on those big screens -- is gone for 2011.

It might even be gone for 2012.

And track and field is left to be -- what? Except for one week every four years at the Olympic Games, when it rocks, what then?