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Bolt lights up Zurich athletics meet


Double world-record breaker Usain Bolt said he was feeling "a little tired" ahead of his 100-metre race at the Weltklasse, Zurich's Golden League athletics meeting.

The 23-year-old Jamaican superstar said that he nevertheless had more races in him and that he enjoyed the special atmosphere of the Zurich meet, which began on Friday evening.

Bolt clocked 9.81 seconds in the 100-metre race on Friday. At the World Championships in Berlin earlier in the month he had shaved 0.11 seconds off two previous records he set at the Beijing Olympics, coming in at 9.58 seconds for the 100 metres and 19.19 seconds in the 200 metres.

The eagerly awaited Bolt, who has been in Zurich since Monday, looked relaxed as he appeared before the international media on Thursday.

He said that he was surprised at how fast he ran the 200 metres in Berlin. “I think the fans were pretty much looking for one [world record] because I also did it in Beijing, so I said ‘what the heck, let’s go for it’,” Bolt told reporters on Thursday.

He will be racing in the 100 metres against fellow countryman Asafa Powell, who put in a stunning final leg in the 4x100m rely in Berlin. Powell is also the man who set a world record over this distance in Zurich in 2006.

On his current form, Bolt said, “I can’t say I’m not tired, I’m a little tired”. He said that he could go on for maybe three more races. “I have to wait for this one to see how tired my body is.”

Still up in the air is whether he will join in the Jamaican relay team in the 4x100m Zurich Trophy.

Long jump?

There was a good deal of speculation at the media conference whether Bolt, so dominant in his events, would want to move up to 400 metres or even try the long jump.

The 400 metres did not seem to be an option, but the athlete said that he definitely wanted to try the long jump. “I’ve messed around with it. I think I’d be good. I think I’d have a good distance,” he said.

However he stressed that it was purely his idea, he hadn’t yet discussed it with his coach.

This is Bolt’s second time at the Weltklasse – last year he won in 9.93 seconds.

“It’s always been good coming here, especially going to the track. The people are really close to the track and you can feel the energy from the crowd,” Bolt told at the news conference.

Earlier on Thursday Bolt was enthusiastically welcomed by an estimated 3,000 people at Zurich’s main station.

In a special event, fans – in this case mostly boys and young men – were able to compete against the great man, or at least a cardboard replica, in a mock race.

The real Bolt, who is known for his sense of fun and post race showmanship, spent around an hour signing autographs and even did some DJing.

Star-studded line-up

In all, there are four world record holders, 16 newly-crowned world champions and 14 Olympic 2008 champions lining up for the meeting’s 16 events.

The organisers say that it is their philosophy to invite as many top performers as possible rather than concentrating on a couple of famous names.

Pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva from Russia, a world record holder, is hoping to make amends in Zurich after her shock failure to clear a single height in Berlin.

Isinbayeva said that she had been overconfident and lost concentration after dominating the event for so long. “I will now focus on the victory first and then the world record,” she said.

Last year the long journey after the Beijing Olympics made it difficult for middle and long distance runners to perform at their best. This year the organisers are hoping for faster races.


Although he feels tired after running six races in ten days, 1,500-metre world champion Yusuf Saad Kamel of Bahrain said that he felt in great shape and was “ready for a good race”. He faces two strong opponents in the Kenyans Augustine Kiprono Choge and Asbel Kiprop.

In the women’s 1,500 metres Switzerland-based Maryam Jamal, also of Bahrain, will be targeting her third consecutive “home” win.

Other exiting races include United States rivals LaShawn Merritt and Jeremy Wariner in the men’s 400 metres and Sanya Richards (US) and Christine Ohuruogu (Britain) in the women’s 400 metres.

Asked by whether he expected any records, Weltklasse meeting director Patrick Magyar said that he never hoped for any, because “that hope would almost certainly be defeated”.

“I’m looking forward to a great meeting, great competitions and enthusiastic public and I’m very certain that that will happen,” he said.

Isobel Leybold-Johnson in Zurich,

The Weltklasse Zurich meeting, part of the prestigious Golden League circuit, has been running since 1928. This year it is staged on August 28.

Twenty-four world records have been broken at the Zurich event, with the last being in 2006, when Asafa Powell set a new record – 9.77 seconds – for 100 metres.

This year the meeting is aiming to take a leading role environmentally and to be CO2 neutral. For example, all athletes will be taken from the official hotel near the airport to the stadium by public transport, in this case special trams.

Among the Swiss highlights at the event are Nicole Büchler, the Swiss pole vault record holder and members of the Swiss 4×100-metre relay team. A special farewell race will round off the evening as Heinz Frei, 14-times Paralympics champion, will compete in his very last wheelchair race on the track. The field will include world record holder Edith Hunkeler, making her debut at Zurich.

The Golden League is a series of the six most important athletics meetings in Europe.

In 2009, the series started in Berlin in June, and moved on to Oslo, Rome, Paris, Zurich and will end in Brussels on September 4.
The goal is to win the famous Golden League Jackpot – pure gold amounting to $1 million (SFr1.05 million). The jackpot will only be awarded to athletes winning their event at all six Golden League meetings. There are ten jackpot disciplines.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR