London – Usain Bolt will aim to restore sprinting’s battered reputation when the Jamaican star returns to London’s Olympic Stadium for the Anniversary Games.
Bolt, scheduled to appear tomorrow and Saturday, returns to the arena where he retained his Olympics 100 metres crown, while also claiming gold medals in the 200m and the 4x100m relay.
Having failed to live up to his fastest man on the planet tag so far this year, Bolt will want a quick time at the Anniversary Games, being held in Stratford to mark one year since the London Olympics.
He will also use the latest of the Diamond League meetings to fine tune his preparations for next month’s World Championships in Moscow.
But, just as significantly, the absence of Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell, as they await the potential punishment over their recent drugs controversy, means athletics needs Bolt to deliver a memorable performance for the good of the sport.
Gay, the 30-year-old American who is the fastest man in the world this year, tested positive for a banned substance and immediately withdrew from the World Championships.
Jamaica’s Powell, a former 100m world record holder, confirmed he had tested positive for a banned stimulant at his country’s national trials for Moscow, but denies any wrongdoing.
Despite the absence of Gay and Powell, six-time Olympic champion Bolt will come up against two runners who have gone faster than him this year.
Fellow Jamaican Nesta Carter and Britain’s James Dasaolu will keep Bolt well and truly on his toes.
Veterans Kim Collins and Dwain Chambers will try and keep pace with Bolt as will young guns Christophe Lemaitre and Rakieem Salaamit.
Bolt, who is also running in the 4×100 relay, has already lost to American veteran Justin Gatlin in Rome this year and is not expected to beat his Berlin 2009 world record of 9.58.
But such is Bolt’s box office power that the 120 000 tickets for the first two days of the Anniversary Games sold out in 75 minutes and within 24 hours the third day of action featuring Paralympic stars had gone too.
Compared to 12 months ago, there will be considerably fewer sets of eyes will be focused on the likes of Bolt and British heroes Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis-Hill when they attempt to warm up for Moscow with confident, morale-lifting displays.
But nine Olympic champions and four world record holders are due to take part in a two-day Diamond League meeting and Farah, the 5000m and 10000m Olympic gold medallist, is certain to take a leading role once more.
This time, however, he has opted to run in the 3000m on Saturday.
Farah is in sparkling form having just broken Steve Cram’s 28-year-old British 1500m record.
He clocked three minutes 28.81 seconds when finishing behind Kenya’s Asben Kiprop.
Farah will clash with Ethiopia’s Tariku Bekele, who finished third to him in the Olympics 10000m and has his sights set on doubling up in Moscow.
“It will be very special and emotional at the Olympic Park,” Farah said.
“I am really looking forward to going back there to perform. The memories I have of a year ago are still so very clear in my mind.
“It’s something I will cherish for the rest of my career and life.
“The atmosphere was incredible and I could not have won those two golds without the help of the supporters.”
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