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"Lightning Bolt" strikes Lausanne

(Keystone)

A little grin, a stretch of his 1.96-metre frame, bang and 19.63 seconds later the show of the fastest man alive, Jamaican speed freak Usain Bolt, was all over.

The triple Olympic champion and world record holder showed he was still in sparkling form on Tuesday, cruising to the second-fastest time in the world this year in his first 200-metre race since the Olympics at the Athletissima meeting in Lausanne.

The 22-year-old Jamaican, who set world records in winning the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay in Beijing, exploded from the blocks, reminiscent of the Olympic final. Bolt continued to stride away but with 30 metres to go took his foot off the accelerator. He still finished five metres or 0.61 seconds ahead of his nearest rival, Churandy Martina.

"It was a good time," Bolt told reporters after matching Xavier Carter's 2006 Lausanne track record. "But I've made history now so a lot of people are looking to me for big times and great things.

"I'm always going out to do my best but it's been a long season and I trailed off tonight because I want to stay injury-free right the way to the season end."

"He's from outer space - in another category," said 23-year-old Swiss sprinter Marco Cribari, who finished sixth.

Bolt was meanwhile off celebrating, slapping eager palms and stopping to sign autographs and strike archer poses.

But only 30 minutes earlier he was nearly upstaged by fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell, who equalled the second fastest time ever over 100 metres when he clocked 9.72 seconds.

Main attraction

Yet Bolt was the undoubted main attraction for a sold-out crowd of 14,300 athletics fans in Lausanne, including a noisy Jamaican fan club from Geneva.

"Usain Bolt is the number one Jamaican," screamed Margaret Green-Detraz, president of the Swiss Jamaican Association, dressed head to foot in the national yellow and green colours.

"In Jamaica he was nowhere and then he suddenly rose up and has made us all so proud," she beamed.

Marc Beyeler, also sporting a Jamaican tracksuit top, had travelled from Bern to see the sprint superstar.

"He's a special athlete as he's so cool and funny... and very fast."

But what's his secret recipe: pure hard work, a longer, faster stride length, double portions of chicken nuggets, or maybe some extra medicinal assistance?

"I'm a bit sceptical," said Beyeler. "But I hope everything's ok."

"I don't care what people think, I know that I'm clean," Bolt told Swiss television on Sunday.

Shopping, autographs and training

These past four days Boltmania has gripped Switzerland.

On Friday the Jamaican preserved his star aura, winning the 100m in 9.83 seconds at Zurich's Weltklasse Golden League in front of a crowd of 26,500.

Yet Bolt was never likely to threaten the world record time of 9.69 seconds he set in his astonishing run to Olympic gold. He was slowest of the nine starters to react to the gun, and it was fully 20 metres before he pulled his huge frame into the lead.

"You can't really compare it to the Olympics," he said. "The Olympics bring so much pressure. It was easy here.

"As I'm starting to get a cold I was not able to think about any faster time. My coach told me that I should make sure to end the season healthy."

Apart from the change in climate, his time in Switzerland seems to have left a strong impression on the young star.

Swiss chocolate

"I have never eaten so much chocolate as I have here," he told journalists in Zurich.

"But I also like the athletics. The public is always very close to us during the race and gives a good atmosphere."

In Zurich "the Bolt" was mobbed while out shopping, so once in Lausanne he took it slightly easier but still found time to sign autographs at the Olympic Museum on Saturday.

"He has everything you could imagine to be bigheaded but not him; he's great, very kind and charismatic," experienced autograph-hunter Pierre-André Hugentobler told swissinfo.

The day before the race was the moment to knuckle down, though. His coach, Glen Mills, had him testing each of the eight lanes of the track at Lausanne's Pontaise Stadium like a true professional.

How does Mills explain Bolt's phenomenal success?

"He's an incredible athlete. In every century there's someone who rewrites the pages of history, like Jesse Owens, or Carl Lewis. This century, it's Usain Bolt," he told swissinfo.

After Zurich and Lausanne the Bolt road show moves on to Brussels in Belgium, before heading back home to Jamaica on September 8 for a hero's welcome.

And he'll return a richer man, the young sprinter is expected to pocket SFr500,000 ($449,920) for his eight days work in Europe.

swissinfo, Simon Bradley in Lausanne

Key facts

Athletissima took place at the Pontaise Stadium in Lausanne on Tuesday September 2.
Athletissima is ranked the fifth most-important athletics meeting, according to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
The other major Swiss athletics meeting is the Weltklasse Zurich that took place on August 29 as the fourth part of the IAAF Golden League.
More than 60 Beijing Olympic finalists, including 19 gold medalists, took part in Athletissima's 17 events.
The budget of Athletissima is SFr3.15 million, compared with SFr8 million for Weltklasse Zurich.
Three athletics world records have been set in Lausanne: Lui Xiang (China), men's 110m hurdles - 12.88 secs (2006); Leroy Burrell (US), men's 100m - 9.85 secs (1994); and Elena Isinbayeva (Russia), women's pole vault - 4.93 m (2005).

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Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt was born on August 21, 1986 in the tiny farming community of Coxheath in the Trelawny, northern Jamaica.

He is 1.96m tall and weighs 86kg.

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics Bolt finished the 100m in 9.69 seconds and the 200m in 19.30 seconds. He also ran the third leg of the 4x100m relay, which Jamaica won in 37.10 seconds, setting three new world records in all.

He is the first sprinter to run the 100m below 9.7 seconds without wind assistance.

He takes between 40 and 41 strides to complete the 100m; in comparison bronze medallist Walter Dix takes 47.

His left shoe was untied during his record-breaking 100m.

He is the first man since Carl Lewis in 1984 to win the sprint double of both the 100m and 200m events.

He first wowed international athletics crowds at the world junior championships in 2002 in Jamaica.

In front of a home crowd, 15-year-old Bolt won the 200m in 20.61sec, becoming the youngest ever world junior champion and earning himself the Lightning Bolt nickname.

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