Usain Bolt and Asfa Powell at Bislett's Strawberry Party (Mark Shearman) © Copyright
The World 100 and 200m record holder, a guest of honour at the British Embassy here today along with Jamaican friend and rival Asafa Powell, for the traditional pre-ExxonMobil Bislett Games - Samsung Diamond League (Thu 7) Strawberry Party, held in an untraditional setting, admitted that he and his coach, Glen Mills, had discussed the epoch-making new mark.
"Me and my coach were discussing 18 seconds – running sub 19 seconds," said the man who set the current World record of 19.19 at the 2009 World Championships. "We said it’s possible. If everything goes right, if you execute, and a few other things happen, you never know…"
"In the 200m you can always execute better on the straight or coming round the bend, so there is always room to run better."
At the last International Athletic Foundation Gala in Monaco, where he was voted World Athlete of the Year, Bolt commented in a throwaway comment that if it came down to it at the London Olympics, his young compatriot and training partner Yohan Blake might take the 100 metres – the distance at which he took the World title last year following Bolt’s disqualification for a false start in Daegu – but that he would be sure to retain his 200m title.
Bolt briefly argued today that he had not made that comment, but added: "The 100m is the glory event, without a doubt. There’s a long way to go until London 2012, but I love my 200 metres."
Asked about his more business-like demeanour before the Rome Samsung Diamond League meeting, where he set the fastest time so far recorded this year in the 100m, 9.76, Bolt responded: "I did a little bit of showmanship there, but maybe not as much as at other times. I am more focused this season on my technique."
He added that after running 10.04sec in the rain of Ostrava last month, he "got no sleep". But the Rome result has put him back on track to retain his Olympic titles.
Both Bolt and Powell described themselves in good shape and, crucially, "injury-free", before what will be their 12th meeting over 100 metres.
Asked about the recent comment of 2004 Olympic champion Justin Gatlin that he was only interested in gold at the London Games, Bolt – sitting under the awnings in the Embassy garden – smiled momentarily before responding: "Nobody wants to be second or third. Everybody wants gold. It’s what you do on the day that counts."
The question of who will prevail in what will be their 12th 100m meeting tomorrow provoked predictable answers. Powell: "Asafa Powell." Bolt: "Usain Bolt."
Thorkildsen - "The past is the past"
The Bislett Stadium is like no other in the world for Norway’s Olympic Javelin champion Andreas Thorkildsen, who will take his place at the centre of it for the latest Samsung Diamond League meeting.
It is within this sheltered arena up from the harbour that, six years ago, he produced his best ever throw – 91.59 metres. But it is the support he always feel at Bislett, rather than what he has achieved there, which is foremost in his mind whenever he returns.
"The past is the past," he told a press conference here today on the eve of competition in the ExxonMobil Bislett Games. ""Whatever I throw at the Bislett Games, it is an important competition. The thing that makes it special for me is the home crowd. When I am competing, I don’t really think about what I have done there before."
Thorkildsen endured a nightmarish end to his season last year as he lost his World title to Germany’s Matthias De Zordo, and then saw the German beat him to the Diamond Race Trophy with victory in Brussels.
"It was a bad end to the season," he said. "I had some technical problems. But you will see a lot of throwers go up and down in the course of a season. The margin for error is so small. If something isn’t right it will affect your results."
Asked about the state of javelin competition now, in which New Zealand’s Stuart Farquhar leads the world lists with 86.31m, Thorkildsen responded:
"It’s kind of weird, like nobody is showing their cards yet. So I think that this competition will be an important one to watch. It will show what you can expect later this season."
De Zordo said that after throwing 81.62m to come second in the Shanghai Diamond League in May he had returned with "a little bit of pain" in his back which had required a week and a half’s break. As a precaution, he decided against the long flight out to compete in last weekend’s Eugene Samsung Diamond League, and he believes that caution has paid off.
"Now the back is quite good," he said. "There is a little pain only. I am ready to throw in Oslo."
Thorkildsen is also in good heart after what he sees as a characteristically gradual start to his season. "Usually it’s a stop and start process," he said. Reflecting on his second place at the Ostrava meeting in 84.72, he added: "Tomorrow is going to be a lot better than Ostrava, and Ostrava was a decent result."
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF
1999 Women 60m heats