Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell will meet for the first time ever in the 100m at the Jamaican Olympic trials that open in Kingston today, and the lack of hype could be ominous. Each time these men say little, they deliver something spectacular.
Bolt, whose 9.72 seconds in New York last month broke Powell's world record by 0.02, remains determined that his Beijing dream is the 200m while his countryman is concerned only with making the team. The quiet-natured characters of these two never allow for any wild announcements of what will happen next, and 24 hours later the history books normally need re-writing.
Their clash is the biggest and most anticipated sprint at a major Olympic trials since Michael Johnson and Maurice Greene met in the 200m at the US Championships before Sydney in 2000, but the similarities end there. The build-up to that race was like a boxing match, and the result saw both of them knocked out of the Games in that event when neither made the team after failing to finish because of sudden injury during the 20 seconds of drama. It is no surprise Bolt and Powell are playing it down.
"I don't make predictions," said Bolt. "I don't think it will be a showdown. Asafa and I will just be going out there to qualify for the Olympics." Powell responded: "I am not going out there to put on any show because you have Bolt running 9.7 and other guys. I just want to make the team."
When Powell equalled his world record of 9.77 in 2006 it was at Gateshead at the start of a season and when he took it to 9.74 last summer, it was at the end of the year in Rieti, Italy, and on both occasions it was out of the blue because of his lack of brashness about how fast he can be. Equally, when Bolt arrived on the 100m scene this summer with his 9.76 in Kingston in May, the foundation for his 9.72, he just said: "I was only doing it to test my speed."
Bolt has run the 100m on only five occasions, but it is impossible to see either of them not making the first two, though Julien Dunkley, with a season's best of 10.07, and Michael Frater, with a 2008 best of 10.08, could make a race of it.
What the trials may bring is a clearer picture of where Bolt goes next. He has still to decide whether even to run the 100m in Beijing because of the lure of the 200m, his favourite event, where he was world junior champion at only 15 in 2002, but this year few people in the sport even expected such confrontation.
Six months ago, when Bolt ran 46.94 to win a 400m at the Grace Jackson International in Kingston in a race where Powell was almost two seconds behind him, it did not even register on the Richter scale of world athletics because there was no reason it should.
Even if it was the second time the 21-year-old had defeated his more illustrious countryman over the only distance at which they had met, at that stage the pair were hardly rivals in an Olympic year: Powell was the 100m world-record holder and Bolt was a 200m specialist. The relay in Beijing was their sole connection, this clash was more an exercise of fitness, yet now the expectation could not be greater.
One man watching the outcome will be Tyson Gay, the 100m world champion from Osaka last summer, who pursues his own place at the Games at the US trials in Eugene, Oregon, which also start today.
One American athlete who knows she must deliver there is Sanya Richards. A year ago, illness leading up to the trials saw her fail to make the 400m team, an event where she progressed to win $500,000 later in the season as the Golden League champion. She is determined to have no problems this time.As well as taking home two gold medals for his record-breaking 100m and 200m sprint in the current Beijing Olympics, Jamaican runner Usain Bolt will be looking forward to a pretty packet as Virgin Media have snapped him up for their latest ad campaign.
The world’s fastest man, Bolt is to become the face of Virgin Media’s superfast broadband service. The company, which is due to launch an ultra-fast 50Mbps broadband service which it claims is almost double the speed of those of rival ISPs, are considering calling the new product “Boltband”.
Ashley Stockwell, head of Virgin Media’s marketing operation said “Our new 50Mb service will deliver even faster lightning broadband speeds, which is why we feel that Usain will be the perfect ambassador for our campaign.”
After his amazing 100m victory, Bolt, aged 22, went on to smash the 200m world record yesterday in a nail-biting race that saw the second and third-place runners disqualified. He made the sprint in just 19.30 seconds, 0.02 seconds faster than the American Michael Johnson’s word record that had stood since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
Virgin Media has used a number of celebrities in the past to promote its products and services. Kill Bill actress Uma Thurman fronted its £20 million campaign to rebrand NTL as Virgin Media, while Samuel L. Jackson and Ruby Wax have also appeared in adverts for the company.