Yohan Blake is ready to run. The sprinter holds the fastest times of the year in the 100 and 200-meter dash, setting up a duel with fellow Jamaican Usain Bolt in London.
Currently, Usain Bolt holds the world records in the 100 and 200-meter dashes. The key word here, is "currently."
At 22 Blake is entering his prime, while Bolt, 25, is considered by some to be "over the hill," losing a step over the past few years. Then there's also this to consider: No man has ever successfully defended a 100-meter Olympic gold medal. The current medal holder? Bolt.
The time, it appears, for Blake could be now. But first, he'll have to contend with one of the fastest fields ever in the August 4 preliminaries and August 5 final of a race that bookmakers say will result in millions of dollars worth of bets. Historically the premier event of the Summer Olympics, one bet has already been taken for about $15,500.
"It's not going to be him [Blake] alone. It's going to be me, Asafa Powell, Tyson Gay, Justin Gatlin and all these guys," Bolt said in an interview with British newspaper The Guardian published July 25. "It's a packed race with top-class athletes so it will be a different level of competition for Yohan. It's going to take a lot of focus."
In addition to the 100, Blake will face Bolt in the 200, and the two will team up as part of a 4x100 relay team with Nesla Carter and team captain Michael Frater. In 2011, the four set a world record with a time of 37.04 seconds.
Part of the draw of the races will be the history Blake and Bolt already share. Blake is the record-holder's training partner, and in 2009 Bolt dubbed him his "protégé." Even though they'll be representing the same country in London, the rivalry between the two will be perhaps the Games' biggest storyline.
Breaking records is nothing new to Blake. At 19, he became the youngest person ever to run the 100 in under 10 seconds. Then, at 21, Blake became the youngest 100-meter world champion ever. Finally, at Jamaica's Olympic trials in the capital, Kingston, earlier this year, Blake did what no one had done since 2007: beat Bolt in the 100. Then, for good measure, he beat Bolt in the 200, Bolt's "favorite" event.
"I have been working hard and am seeing it paying off now," Blake, who supplements his training by eating 16 bananas a day, said in an interview with AFP after the Jamaican trials. "I was not surprised by the big win. I know what Bolt has to offer and I know he was not at 100 percent. I just tried to keep my form."
Now, he hopes that form will carry him to Olympic gold, and maybe a world record or two. Will the pressure get to him?
"It's going to cause a lot of stress," Bolt said in the same Guardian interview of what Blake could expect of the Olympic environment. "It will really test him as an athlete - and as a person overall. We'll see how good he is."
Both Blake and Bolt have been training with other members of the Jamaican team in seclusion on a track at the University of Birmingham. Reporters and the public have been unable to catch a glimpse, as the facility is surrounded by thick bushes and patrolled by security. While other Jamaican track athletes have made select media appearances and appeared in public, Blake and Bolt have not.
Author: Benjamin Mack
Editor: Rina Goldenberg