Usain Bolt blew away any fears about his fitness and fired a major warning to Justin Gatlin as he blasted to his two fastest 100m times of the year on his return to the Olympic Stadium last night.
The world’s fastest man, on his first outing for six weeks following a pelvic injury, clocked 9.87secs twice, to win his heat and then the final at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games.
The Jamaican stated on the eve of the meeting he had no worries about his shape a month out from the World Championships in Beijing and proved true to his word on the track where he won three Olympic gold medals at London 2012.
His run in the heat was smoother than the final, but he could take further heart from the fact both were into headwinds and in far from ideal conditions.
The six-time Olympic champion had to work hard after a poor start in the final, beating American Mike Rodgers by just 0.03secs.
There was also a sub 10-second clocking from Great Britain’s Chijindu Ujah, who equalled his personal best by finishing fourth in 9.96.
The torrential rain had eased a little by the time Bolt took to the track for his heat and was gone by the final, but these were still tough conditions in which to produce a performance which would have world No 1 Gatlin, the two-time drug cheat not invited because of his past, sitting up and taking notice.
Bolt, though, managed it and then some, even though he had the worst reaction time of the nine athletes in the final.
He seemed distinctly unimpressed by his final run and said: “Overall, it was a good run. My start was really poor. My coach (Glen Mills) keeps telling to me relax. I want to run faster and it is getting there.
“The first race was very smooth and I was very happy with what I did. In the final, I got a bad start and it all went downhill from there.
“It is hard work and dedication. I just need to keep pushing myself. I feel pretty good. If I continue to work on my start, it will all be good.”
Bolt came into the meeting ranked 62nd in the world with a best of 10.12 this year.
He is now up to joint sixth, with Gatlin still leading the way with 9.74.
Bolt’s performances will have had athletics fans breathing a sigh of relief, with the prospect of Gatlin winning the blue-riband event in Beijing one many within the sport will find hard to stomach.
There was also a huge step forward for Sheffield’s Jessica Ennis-Hill, who shattered her season’s best by clocking 12.79 to finish fifth in a world-class 100m hurdles.
The Olympic heptathlon champion, on her first appearance at the Olympic Stadium since the birth of her son Reggie last summer, will decide whether to go to the World Championships based on her performances this weekend.
She has said she wants to assess her speed before making a final call, but on this evidence it is back.
The Yorkshire athlete who is back in action today in the long jump and the 200m, finished one place behind team-mate Tiffany Porter, who clocked 12.67.
Ennis-Hill said: “I’m made up with that, so pleased to have run that time and to have done it here in this stadium, in the right part of the year, really happy.
“To be honest I was thinking I would probably run 13.1 or 13.0 and that would be have been really disappointing, so to have not just dipped under with a 12.90, to have run 12.79 is brilliant.
“It’s incredible to be back, I absolutely love this stadium and the memories for me are so amazing.”
Britain’s 20-year-old Anguilla-born sprinter Zharnel Hughes, a member of Bolt’s training group in Jamaica, clocked an impressive personal best to win the 200m in 20.05.
Christine Ohuruogu, who will be the defending champion in Beijing, finished fourth in the 400m in 51.00.
European champion Eilidh Child also finished fourth in the 400m hurdles in 54.48.
Mo Farah won his first race in Great Britain since the doping allegations engulfing his coach surfaced. The double Olympic champion crossed the line in seven minutes 34.66 seconds to won the 3,000m.