MOSCOW (AFP) – Jamaican sprint legend Usain Bolt’s bid to regain his 100 metres world title, which he relinquished when he false-started in the 2011 final, began in gentle fashion on Saturday when he cruised into Sunday’s semi-finals.
Ironically, the 26-year-old world record holder’s campaign featured a false start but fortunately for him it was Kemar Hyman of the Cayman Islands who saw his competition come to an early end in Moscow.
After that, and having crossed himself and pointed to the heavens in traditional Bolt fashion, the six-time Olympic gold medallist got down to business and sauntered over the line in 10.07sec.
A small round of applause from him and a look at the screen proved sufficient before leaving the track.
He said he had not been anxious that the false start would be called against him.
“The false start didn’t affect me. I saw him (Hyman) move. I knew it was him, so I wasn’t worried,” he said.
“As it was the first round heat I just wanted to test my reaction and start right. I am confident for tomorrow. I’m always confident.
“I made a mistake at Daegu (in 2011) and now I am staying focussed and I have been looking for this moment, these championships, to come for some time.”
With the second fastest man of all time, Tyson Gay, barred after failing dope tests, Bolt’s main rival is another American, former drugs cheat Justin Gatlin.
The 31-year-old looked in superb shape as he won his heat from lane nine in 9.99sec, edging out Trinidadian Keston Bledman with British veteran Dwain Chambers, like Gatlin, no stranger to a doping ban, taking third.
Gatlin, who was double sprint world champion in the 2005 edition, was delighted with his performance.
“I’m happy with my performance. Now I need to see what my coach makes of it, as he’s the really critical one,” said Gatlin, who came back to win Olympic bronze last year after ending a four-year drug ban in 2010.
“I was calm and in control. I think I have a great chance to win here.”
Chambers, a three-time world 100m finalist, said that no matter his advancing years he still found the experience at this level nerve-jangling.
“It’s always nerve-racking in the first round. You would think I’d be used to it, but the competition gets stiffer and stiffer,” said the 35-year-old.
“I have the spirit. I wish I had youth on my side but I have the experience.”
Gatlin’s team-mate Mike Rodgers, who served a nine-month doping ban from July 2011 to March 2012, ran an even faster heat winning in a time of 9.98sec.
For Rodgers it is a bonus appearing in the individual event as he only got in because of Gay’s failed dope tests.
Bolt’s training partner, 21-year-old Kemar Bailey-Cole — an Olympic 4x100m relay gold medallist having run the heats last year — joined his illustrious training-partner in the semi-finals after winning his heat in 10.02sec.
Another of the Jamaicans, two-time Olympic relay gold medallist Nesta Carter also cruised in his heat timing 10.11sec to see off Gatlin’s training partner, Dutch sprinter Churandy Martina, who along with Bolt are the only two competing in Moscow who reached both sprint finals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
The highly-rated 17-year-old Japanese athlete Yoshihide Kiryu was edged out of the third and final automatic qualifying spot by Canadian Gavin Smellie and also lost out as one of the three fastest losers.
China, however, will be doubly represented as China’s Zhang Palmeng won his heat in 10.19sec, beating Trinidad’s 2008 Olympic 100m silver medallist Richard Thompson.
Zhang’s team-mate Su Bingtian went through later as a fastest loser.