After a gripping weekend of Olympic Trials, a favorite for the vaunted sprint double in London has emerged.
He's Jamaican, wildly talented and has been a known phenom for many years in track circles.
But he's not Usain Bolt.
Instead, it's Bolt's training partner, Yohan Blake, who completed his sweep at the Jamaican trials with a come-from-behind win in the 200-meter dash final that left the "stadium in shock," as the BBC's Leon Mann reported.
Blake's comprehensive victory in the 100-meter dash Friday night was eye-opening enough, but the fact that Bolt was unable to roar back with a vengeance in the 200 might be even more surprising.
This time, Bolt was incapable of rebounding with a signature performance, and his struggles have given many of his rivals new hope that the once-unbeatable man is ripe for the taking.
Gatlin ran a stellar 9.80 to win the 2012 US Olympic trials, and in his comeback from a drug suspension he has looked better every week. Of the major contenders, he very well might have the best start of the group. Spectacular as Blake and Bolt are in the 100, they often leave themselves a lot of work to do in the last 40 meters.
Elsewhere in the US, there is no doubt Tyson Gay is ecstatic to think he might just be a tenth of a second or so away from returning to the top of the sprint world.
Much like Gatlin, Gay's path to recovery (his from a multitude of injuries) has had him improving leaps and bounds in every race he's run. The more comfortable Gay gets with his body, the greater the odds go up that he can let it all loose and show the form that saw him break the 9.70 barrier.
Also in Eugene, Ore. a man who ran approximately a half-hour before the Jamaicans, American Wallace Spearmon, has to like his own prospects the most he has since Bolt burst onto the world scene in 2008.
Spearmon, in fact, indicated in his post-race interview with NBC that he gave his close pal Bolt some good-natured ribbing in the wake of his defeat at 100 meters to Blake. After he finds out that he bested Bolt's 200 time by .01 seconds Sunday (albeit with some help from the wind), I doubt any joking about the whole thing would go over well in Jamaica.
Lastly, there is no doubt that Blake has emerged from this meet with more confidence than ever that he can best the man he trains beside every day in practice.
In the 100, it is starting to look less like happenstance and more like a trend that Bolt is just not comfortable in the blocks against his equally fast-finishing teammate. The usually effortlessly cool Bolt admitted after Friday's final to being thrown off by others and unfocused at the start.
Bolt's inconsistent starts in the 100 have always been kind of a lurking problem, but his dominance in the 200 was never really up for debate. In the wake of being caught from behind in his most reliable event, even that safe haven seems to have been breached.
The great Jamaican now needs a hasty return to his vintage form, where the main questions were how much would he win by and with what in-race antics.
After two consecutive defeats, his aura of invincibility is broken and the London sprints are now wide-open. A trio of Americans have more hope for glory than they've had in years, and a fellow Jamaican now looks poised to seize Bolt's lofty throne as World's Fastest Man and the showstopper of the Olympics.
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