Bolt ready to strike
JAMAICA’S teenage sprint sensation Usain Bolt has confirmed he will race Australia’s Patrick Johnson in the 200m at the Commonwealth Games.
The world junior record-holder is the latest Caribbean big name to commit to coming to Melbourne in March, joining world 100m record-holder Asafa Powell and world championships 100m silver medallist Michael Frater.
Bolt, 19, is an emerging star on the track and field scene and his clash with Johnson will be a Games highlight.
The pair last met in the world championships 200m final in Helsinki in August, when Johnson, who has had a resurgence in the past 12 months, finished sixth and Bolt last.
Bolt, who has been inevitably been nicknamed “Lightning Bolt”, first rose to prominence when he won the 2002 world junior championships. He then won the 200m the next year at the world youth championships and Pan-American junior championships.
In 2004 he clocked his world junior record 19.93sec but hamstring problems hampered his preparation for the Athens Olympics, where he was run out in the first round.
Last week Powell confirmed he was progressing well from a groin injury and training impressively alongside Frater in Jamaica. The sprint stars will hit town late next month.
England’s biggest name Paula Radcliffe has said she will be at the Games, likely to compete in the 10,000m against Benita Johnson.
Regarded as the greatest female runner of all time, Radcliffe, 31, won the marathon at last year’s world championships in a record 2hr 20min 57sec and is the Commonwealth 5000m and European 10,000m champion.
Johnson, the former world cross-country champion, and Radcliffe have been regular adversaries over the past few years and the Australian champion is ready to race again after overcoming health issues which ruined her world championships campaign.
For the past four months Johnson has been training in Melbourne and getting her body back to peak fitness after a mystery virus ended her European season early.
The confirmation of Bolt and Radcliffe comes after nine-time world 800m champion Maria Mutola of Mozambique revealed she was also aiming to compete in Melbourne. But world 5000m champion Benjamin Limo is among top Kenyan athletes who will skip the Games.
Limo, who won silver at the 2002 Manchester Games, said he was focusing on the World Cross Country Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, in April.
“There are many young runners out there who can launch their careers at the Commonwealth Games and Athletics Kenya should consider them for that,” Limo said after winning a 4km race at the Kenyan Armed Forces Championships on Saturday.
Other athletes who have revealed they are almost certain to miss the Commonwealth Games are Sammy Kipketer, who won 5000m gold in Manchester, double world cross-country champion John Kibowen and Shadrack Korir, who won the men’s 12km race at Saturday’s championships.