Speaking at the press conference ahead of the Golden Spike meeting on Friday 20 May, Usain Bolt outlined his intentions to run well below 10 seconds for 100m at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Ostrava, provided the weather played ball.
“I was promised the weather would be good,” said the multiple world and Olympic champion. “Hopefully I can run a 9.8; I’d be happy with that.”
The Jamaican superstar is understandably cautious when making his predictions for Friday’s competition. He won the 200m in Ostrava last year, but the cold and damp conditions hindered his chances of a sub-20-second clocking.
Likewise, the wet weather at the 2010 edition of this meeting didn’t help in Bolt’s attempt to break the 300m world best.
But generally speaking, Bolt can’t be too unhappy with his seven previous appearances in Ostrava as he is undefeated in the Czech city. Along with his 300m victory in 2010, he won the 200m in 2006, 2008 and 2015 and the 100m in 2009, 2011 and 2012.
“I had a tight hamstring after my last race,” said Bolt, who ran 10.05 to win at the Cayman Invitational last week. “But I went to see a doctor and I’m feeling much better now. I know that the more I run, the better I’ll get, so I’m happy that I started racing early this year.
“If I can continue on the right path to the Olympics, I definitely think world records are possible in Rio,” he added. “I really want to run sub-19 in the 200m; that’s my focus.”
On season’s bests, Bolt is just the second-fastest athlete on the 100m start list for Ostrava. Double African champion Wilfried Koffi of the Ivory Coast is the fastest in the field this year, having set a national record of 10.01 last month.
But there is a far more intriguing opponent in the field. World and Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton will test his speed by lining up against Bolt for the first time in his career.
“Obviously I'm super out of my league,” Eaton said last month. “But what I’m hoping is that running with these people I'll learn a thing or two, because you pick up some stuff. And maybe I can get a fast time.”
Eaton will also contest the long jump in Ostrava where he will compete against world indoor bronze medallist Huang Changzhou of China and Germany’s Paralympic champion Markus Rehm.
His wife, world indoor pentathlon champion Brianne Theisen-Eaton, will compete in the 100m hurdles as she tunes up for her first heptathlon of the year in Gotzis.
World champions lead hammer and pole vault fields
The Golden Spike is part of the IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge and, as is tradition at this meeting, the hammer competitions will be held on the eve of the main competition.
Before winning their world titles last year, Polish duo Anita Wlodarczyk and Pawel Fajdek triumphed in Ostrava and the pair will be back in action this year.
World record-holder Wlodarczyk’s last defeat came at the 2014 edition of this meeting when Germany’s Betty Heidler won with 78.00m. This will be the seventh time in which Wlodarczyk has faced Heidler in Ostrava; it will also be something of a decider as they are currently matched at 3-3 from their previous appearances at this meeting.
With Heidler’s meeting record of 78.07m from 2012 as her target, Wlodarczyk will also face China’s Asian record-holder Wang Zheng.
While Wlodarczyk will be making her season debut, Fajdek will be looking to improve on his own world-leading mark of 79.12m. The two-time world champion will take on the two men who joined him on the podium at last year’s World Championships: Tajikistan’s Dilshod Nazarov and Poland’s Wojciech Nowicki.
Both of the pole vault contests will also feature the reigning world champions.
Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie faces world champion Shawn Barber in the men’s competition. Poland’s Piotr Lisek, who shared the bronze medal with Lavillenie at last year’s World Championships, is also set to compete, as is 2014 world indoor bronze medallist Jan Kudlicka.
World champion Yarisley Silva will be making her 2016 debut in the women’s competition. The Cuban won’t have an easy task, either, as she will be competing against USA’s world indoor silver medallist Sandi Morris.
Earlier this year, Morris cleared 4.95m indoors to become the third-highest vaulter in history, overtaking Silva. In Doha earlier this month, Morris equalled Silva’s IAAF Diamond League record of 4.83m. Coincidentally, the meeting record in Ostrava is the same height, set 12 years ago by Stacey Dragila.
Hejnova and Maslak aim to please the home crowd
There are good chances of Czech victories over one lap of the track on Friday evening as double global champions Zuzana Hejnova and Pavel Maslak compete in their specialist events for the first time this season.
Two-time world 400m hurdles champion Hejnova had been set to compete in Doha earlier this month but postponed her season debut after feeling some pain in her achilles. On Friday she will face Jamaica’s Kaliese Spencer and Czech compatriot Denisa Rosolova.
In the men’s 400m, two-time world indoor champion Maslak takes on Jamaica’s Javon Francis, USA’s Tony McQuay and 2004 Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner.
World leader Johnny Dutch leads a men’s 400m hurdles field that combines youth and experience. His opponents include South Africa’s 2011 world bronze medallist LJ van Zyl, Jamaica’s world junior champion Jaheel Hyde and Poland’s European under-23 champion Patryk Dobek.
Christine Day, who finished fourth at last year’s World Championships, lines up alongside USA’s Jessica Beard and Britain’s Seren Bundy-Davies in the women’s 400m.
Yego looking for repeat win
World javelin champion Julius Yego achieved his first victory of 2015 at last year’s edition of this meeting, throwing what was then a Kenyan record of 86.88m to earn the ‘Jan Zelezny trophy’, an award given to the best performer of the meeting.
He went on to improve on that mark on several occasions throughout the year, culminating with his stunning 92.72m victory at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015. In Ostrava he will face Egypt’s world silver medallist Ihab Abdelrahman and world leader Jakub Vadlejch of the Czech Republic.
In the men’s shot put, Poland’s much-improved Michal Haratyk will face the likes of two-time Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski, world junior champion Konrad Bukowiecki and European indoor bronze medallist Ladislav Prasil.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF