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Usain Bolt doesn't just face the world-class sprinters that line up beside him when he competes in a race.
He faces the clock, sky-high expectations, and an unfathomable standard he's set for 100-meter running.
So, when he gets out of the blocks sluggishly, doesn't explode out in the middle as we expect, and runs a pedestrian 10.04 for the 100, it sure seems like a loss.
The fact is, though, however uninspiring Usain Bolt's run was in Ostrava May 25th, it was a win and a comfortable one at that.
The public was perplexed by the slowest 100-meter final clocking of his senior career, and Bolt seemed to echo the same feelings as he told the Guardian:
''I had some very good starts on the warm-up track so I have no explanation...I had no feeling at all in the race, no feeling. I went out of the blocks badly and then nothing came. The false start did not affect me, that's no excuse. I'll have to go back to the drawing board, talk to the coach. It was just a bad day, I have to get past it and look forward to the next one.''
It is critical to give the time proper context. Overall, the times on the day were slow (perhaps due to cooler weather), Bolt was running into a significant headwind (-0.8), and the field Bolt was facing was decent, not terrible. It was also an early season race, surely not a race circled on Bolt's calendar.
Thus, plenty of things were in alignment for a high 9's or low 10's clocking. Obviously Bolt's start was as bad as we've seen, and his response was far less pronounced that we are accustomed to.
Bolt can quickly erase most of the doubts with a strong showing in Rome, or at least one that replicates last year's thrilling victory over countryman Asafa Powell in the same event.
At the very least, he will almost certainly need a 9 at the beginning of his time to best a field that includes Powell and burgeoning French star Christophe Lemaitre.
His response to last week's race will go a long way in determining whether Ostrava was just a bad day, or the first signs of a bad season.