Usain Bolt races 200m in Stockholm - DN Galan (Hasse Sjogren / DECA Text&Bild) © Copyright

Men's 200m - PREVIEW

In the imperial measurement system, the equivalent of the 200m was the 220 yards, also known as the furlong.

The question is: If you’re name is not Usain Bolt and you are longing for gold in the furlong in Daegu, will your hopes prove to be forlorn?

The answer, surely, must be ‘yes’. Bolt is the defending champion. He holds the World record. He has run three Samsung Diamond League races for three victories this year, his narrowest winning margin a comfortable 0.18 seconds. His fastest time of the year is a metre quicker than anyone else has run.

And yet, and yet, doubts somehow linger. They might be straws blowing in the wind, but can anyone gather them all to make something more substantial?

Statistically, it has been the thinnest year for 200 since 2006. Bolt tops the annual performance list with his 19.86 seconds win in the Oslo SDL . His countryman, Nickel Ashmeade, the 2008 World Junior Championships silver medallist, is the only other man under 20 seconds.

Coming into the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, where bolt re-emerged as a serious championship contender with his silver medal behind Tyson Gay, Gay had run 19.62, Bolt 19.75.

Leading into the Beijing Olympics, where Bolt won the sprint double with World records in both the 100m and 200m, Bolt had run 19.67, 19.76 and 19.83. Pre-Berlin 2009, where Bolt repeated his 100m/200m in World record times double, Gay had clocked 19.58 and Bolt 19.59 (the latter in a rainstorm in Lausanne).

Even last year, Bolt ran 19.56 and 19.76 before curtailing his season with a back injury.

So who, or what, might beat the seemingly unbeatable Bolt? He has candidly admitted he is not in World record shape this year, so form might bring him down. But he has beaten three different medal contenders in his three races this year – Jaysuma Saidy Ndure in Oslo, Christophe Lemaitre in Paris and 2009 silver medallist Alonso Edward in Stockholm – and done so convincingly.

Injury could limit the great man. He reported soreness in his troublesome back after racing around Stockholm’s tight bend.

“My back is a little bit tight on the left side and I know that’s because of the curve,” Bolt told ESPN. “I’ll be OK, no worries,” he added.

Maybe there is someone lurking among the opposition not yet showing his full potential. There are his Jamaican compatriots Ashmeade and Mario Forsythe. Ashmeade, at 21, may be poised for take-off.

Lemaitre, who improved to 9.92 in the 100m and then ran 20.08w to complete a double at the French championships, is another in the young (20), and rapid improver, category. At 22, and with a 19.81 PB, Edward belongs in that group, too.

Walter Dix won the double at the U.S. championships, has a best of 19.69 and ran 19.72 last year. He ran 20.16 into a 2mps wind in London, comfortably defeating Jamaica’s Warren Weir and Edward and has clocked 20.02.

Asian champion Femi Ogunode (QAT) is another who has claims.

The problem with all this analysis, of course, is that it is all based on the premise that the gold medal is Bolt’s to lose.

And who would bet against him? Not me, certainly.

Len Johnson for the IAAF