Bolt back on the track to start 200 at world championships
BEIJING (AP) Celebration time is over, Usain Bolt. Your stage beckons.
After a day off following his wild 100-meter win over Justin Gatlin, the Jamaican great returns for the opening round of the 200 meters on Tuesday at the world championships. This is the event Bolt loves best, too. He's captured three straight world titles in the event.
Although Gatlin has the fastest two times in the 200 this season, no one is even so much as questioning Bolt.
Not this time.
Gatlin looked like a safe bet in the 100 final, especially with Bolt looking a little ragged in the rounds leading up to the final. Gatlin jumped out to an early lead, but went into his lean a little too early and was edged out by Bolt in a thrilling race.
Lesson learned: Never doubt a six-time Olympic champion.
''A lot of people counted me out,'' Bolt said. ''So, for me to come and win this is a big deal.''
Even when Bolt isn't at his best, it still takes a perfect race to beat him. He's spent more time healing up from injuries than racing over the last two seasons. He worked his way back into championship shape simply by running the rounds. Granted, his time of 9.79 seconds wasn't spectacular - .21 off his world record - but he found a way to get a win.
He was at least pushed, all the way through the finish. That hasn't happened very often in recent seasons. Gatlin is making him work for his titles.
''At the end of the day, you just have to focus on yourself and be within yourself. That's all it really is,'' Gatlin said. ''You just have to be on top of your game.''
Keep an eye on youngster Andre De Grasse, the 20-year-old Canadian who goes to school at the University of Southern California and tied for the bronze in the 100. De Grasse is part of the next wave of sprinters trying to catch up to Bolt.
''To run side by side with such stars always pushes and motivates you to improve,'' De Grasse said.
Indeed, Bolt will do that. He's certainly got his swagger back.
''I guess this recipe of confidence will also work for the 200,'' Bolt said.
Here are some things to know about Day 4 of the world championships:
Anytime 800-meter extraordinaire David Rudisha of Kenya makes it to the final, he's the runner to watch.
Rudisha missed the 2013 worlds in Russia with a knee injury. He's won both of his heats so far in Beijing to advance to the final, where he will be pushed by a pack that surprisingly doesn't include defending champion Mohammed Aman. The Ethiopian was disqualified in the semifinals for obstruction.
American 1,500-meter runner Jenny Simpson celebrated her 29th birthday Sunday by advancing to the final. Now, she's hoping for a belated birthday gift in the form of a medal. She was the world champion in 2011 and the silver medalist two years ago behind Swedish racer Abeba Aregawi, who also advanced to the final.
U.S. 400-meter hurdler Bershawn Jackson? Out in the first round. Teammate Johnny Dutch? Out in the semifinals. Those two had the fastest times this season entering the event. The Americans are deep in this event and Kerron Clement and Michael Tinsley will be among the favorites. Tinsley was the 2014 Diamond League winner.
Expect plenty of roars when Wang Jianan of China takes the track for the long jump. At 8.12 meters, he had the top mark in his qualifying group. He won't be alone as Gao Xinglong and Li Jinzhe also advanced.
Croatian discus standout Sandra Perkovic will try to add a world title to the gold medal she won at the 2012 London Olympics. Last season, the 25-year-old Perkovic became the first thrower to go over the 70-meter mark in more than two decades.