KINGSTON (Reuters) - Usain Bolt’s coach is convinced the Jamaican phenomenon can once again put aside injury concerns and mediocre form to maintain his grip on the major sprint titles at this month’s world championship.
The 28-year-old returns to the Bird’s Nest stadium where he first stunned the world at the 2008 Olympics for the Aug 22-30 championships, bidding to retain his 100 and 200 meters titles.
Bolt is certainly short of competitive races and struggled for times this season until he twice clocked 9.87 seconds in the 100 meters in London late last month.
His coach Glen Mills, though, believes the Olympic champion and world record holder in both sprints will be able to hit his straps when it matters.
“The last two years have been very challenging for both Usain and myself,” Mills told Reuters.
“Unfortunately, he has had a number of different injuries to overcome which have affected his training and the number of competitions he has been able to compete in.
“But Bolt is a champion who knows nothing but excellence when performing on the world stage.”
American Justin Gatlin enters Beijing in better form than the Jamaican with world leading marks of 9.74 and 19.57 seconds as he seeks to win his second world sprint double since first doing so in Helsinki in 2005.
In seven head-to-head clashes over 100 meters, Bolt has beaten Gatlin six times.
Bolt’s record at major meetings since he wrote his name into track history by winning the 100 and 200 meters in world record times at the Beijing Olympics is quite extraordinary.
Only a false start in the 100m four years ago in Daegu has prevented him from sweeping the sprint titles at the 2009, 2011 and 2013 world championships and London Olympics.
Bolt, who turns 29 the day before the world championships open, underwent surgery on his left foot in 2014 which restricted him to run only a few 100m races as well as the 4x100 relay at the Commonwealth Games, where Jamaica won gold.
This season, a blocked sacroiliac joint which restricted his movement and placed pressure on his knee and ankle has affected his preparations for Beijing and forced him to withdraw from the Paris and Lausanne Diamond League meets.
“We have been making a number of changes on the way he trains and have been getting results,” said Mills. “However, I would have wanted him to have had more races.”
Bolt’s season best marks of 9.87 and 20.13 are only ranked sixth and 19th respectively in the world this year and well shy of the records of 9.58 and 19.19 he set at the 2009 world championships.
Like Mills, though, his agent Ricky Simms is confident Bolt can outdo all challengers once again.
“Everyone knows that Usain shows up when it comes to championships,” he told Reuters by phone.
“He’s been in this situation before, he’s had a few races where it didn’t go to plan and then at the Championships he always delivers, so I would say I’m extremely confident in Usain’s ability.”
Mills, who also guided Yohan Blake (2011) and Kim Collins (2003) of St. Kitts and Nevis to 100m world titles, has now been coaching Bolt for a decade and said the lean times made the successes all the more enjoyable.
“It certainly would mean a great dealt to me to continue to pilot his successes and more so in these difficult years.”
Editing by Nick Mulvenney