Yohan Blake celebrates winning the men's 100m final in Daegu (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Daegu, Korea

With Blake, cricket's loss is track and field's gain

Yohan Blake says becoming a World champion was something he has "been waiting for my whole life." When, of course, he wasn't aiming for a career as a cricketer.

"I'm wonderful at cricket, at 20-20," Blake said after his impressive victory in the men's 100m at the IAAF World Championships on Sunday night at Daegu Stadium.

"West Indies are down, England is my team. I always wanted to be a cricketer, but I found a love for track and field. But I still love cricket. But track and field has taken over my life."

A good career choice, as he showed before the packed crowd and millions watching around the world still trying to come to grips with the stunning disqualification of Jamaican teammate and superstar Usain Bolt.

Blake, who decided to focus full-time on athletics when he was 16, became at 21 years 244 days the youngest gold medalist in the 100m in history. Carl Lewis was 22 years 38 days when he won the title at the inaugural World Championships in 1983.

That Blake has come so far so fast fulfilled a prediction by the coach he shares with Bolt, Glen Mills, who told the Jamaica Gleaner in June that he expected "a lot of fireworks" from Blake in Daegu.

Blake had finished second at the Jamaica championships to former World record-holder Asafa Powell, who was also missing from the Daegu final after pulling out of the meet with a groin injury.

"I've been waiting for this my whole life," Blake said. "I've always been working just to be a world champion and it's a dream come true."

With the victory, Blake has suddenly become a marked man.

"I hate him right now," bronze medalist Kim Collins of St. Kitts and Nevis said jokingly. "But that's the way it is. When I won in Paris [in 2003], everyone was hating on me. You always hate the winner. That's how it is. It's life. It's nothing personal."

Born in St. James, Blake as a child always put full effort into any undertaking, establishing a habit of training hard that paid off many years later on the humid Daegu night, and not just because he earned $60,000 for the victory.

"Definitely, I've been working really hard," he said. "I've been training in cricket and training [in athletics], doing all of that stuff, and just to come out tonight, it's been wonderful for me."

Blake's first taste of the international spotlight came when he won a bronze medal in the 100m at the 2006 World Junior Championships in Beijing, while also picking up a gold in the 4x100m Relay.

His first venture into history came in July 2009, when he became the youngest sprinter to break into the sub-10-second club, clocking 9.96 at the Golden Gala in Rome.

"I would like to be a legend, everyone wants to be a legend," he said. "My goal this year was to work my way up to the top. With the Olympics coming up, I'm thinking about that from now."

Not everything has gone his way. Just before the 2009 World championships in Berlin, he tested positive for a stimulant and later received a three-month ban. Although he could have run in the relay, the Jamaican federation took the precaution of withdrawing him as the matter was being decided.

Asked about the incident, Blake curtly replied, "I have put that past me."

With a career-best of 9.89 set in London in August last year, Blake had a strong season coming into Daegu, including a victory at the London Samsung Diamond League meet. His winning time of 9.95 was his season-best prior to the 9.92 he ran to secure the gold in Daegu.

Just as he kept the World title in Jamaican hands, Blake continued what seems to have become a national tradition of fueling his efforts with chicken nuggets, a "nugget" that Bolt revealed when he first set the World record at the Beijing Olympics.

"Last night we all had a lot of chicken nuggets," Blake said. "I guess it's all in the nuggets."

Ken Marantz for the IAAF