Usain Bolt's European season got off to a rocky start Friday night in the Czech Republic.
Bolt won his 100-meter race at the Golden Spikes meet with a time of 10.04 seconds, but left many questions about his upcoming season unanswered. It is surprising to see a 10-second heat from Bolt. We've come to expect him to blow his opponents away every time he steps on the track with performances that challenge his own world record of 9.58.
His effort resulted in the win, which, in the end, is what he is going for. But, Bolt may be slipping heading into an important tune-up this week in preparation for the London Olympics.
On Thursday at the Diamond League meet in Rome, Bolt will face fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell, as well as Christophe Lemaitre and Kim Collins. Those three will serve as hard competition to Bolt not only this week, but in London as well.
Bolt won on Friday, but with this step up in competition coupled with his less-than-stellar showing, the question needs to be asked: Is Bolt more vulnerable than ever?
Former Olympic champion Linford Christie told the AFP that Bolt will have a much tougher time than in Beijing. Christie explained that "Bolt is fast, but the competition will be cutthroat this time."
This may be the closest anyone has come to topping Bolt, but he shouldn't be considered beatable just yet for a few reasons.
The Jamaican's 10.04 run might sound bad at first, but Bolt has already beaten that time this year. Earlier this month, Bolt clocked a 9.82 in Kingston, Jamaica—faster than any of his competitors in Rome have run this season.
In his last race, Bolt's slow start was the cause of his poor time. Bolt had difficulty explaining the cause for his trouble getting out of the blocks quickly, telling The New York Times, “It’s kind of hard to explain, because I really don’t know what went wrong.”
“I didn’t seem as explosive as I normally seem," Bolt said. "That’s where my power comes from, and then in transition, everything comes together."
A possible explanation could stem from Bolt's false start disqualification from the 100 meters at the 2011 World Championships in South Korea. The current false-start rule that disqualified Bolt "takes away the explosive starts that are such an important part of sprints," according to Christie.
"Now the athletes are just waiting back for the starter's pistol to go before they launch from the blocks," Christie said.
If the memory of the World Championships is still fresh in Bolt's head, he might be one of the athletes Christie is talking about. It may take some time to block the frustrating race from his memory. Like a batter getting into the box for the first time after being hit, Bolt might be cautious not to let history repeat when he steps into the starting blocks.
The defending gold-medal winner will try to find what went wrong in the Czech Republic. "Hopefully, I can go back, look at the replay, and my coach can explain to me what I need to do," he told the Times.
Bolt is still early in his preparation for London, and another poor effort in Rome may prove to be telling. As of now, Bolt is still the man to beat. He is still confident as ever, saying, "It’s going to be a great season, but I’m never worried."