DAEGU, South Korea (Reuters) - A chastened Usain Bolt returned to the world championships and Deagu Stadium on Friday morning resolutely focused on just one thing, reaching the semi-finals of the 200 meters.
The flamboyant fastest man in the world could be forgiven for not taking absolutely anything for granted after the embarrassment of being disqualified from the final of the 100 meters for a false start five days ago.
The posing and preening that featured in the run-up to his 100 title defense was absent as he got into the blocks for the longer sprint, in which he is also Olympic champion and world record holder.
There was no way he was going to jump the gun again and understandably had the slowest reaction time in his heat but the Jamaican rarely needs a perfect start in the 200 and he duly eased to victory in 20.30 seconds.
That turned out to be the quickest time of the morning but pretenders to Bolt’s crown like American Walter Dix, Panama’s Alonso Edward and flying Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre also proceeded comfortably.
Bolt, while perhaps vulnerable in the 100 after a less than vintage season coming back from injury, was considered bullet proof in the 200 in Deagu.
But having seen a different face at the top of a podium after a major championships sprint race for the first time in three years may have emboldened the rivals he is likely to face in Saturday’s final.
“I feel that this year it is my stronger event and definitely, I go for gold here,” said Dix, who finished with a silver medal behind Yohan Blake in the 100.
“I am not sure about how Usain is ready. I think that this time it will not be as easy for him as in the past years.”
Bolt gave a thumbs up before leaving the stadium without saying a word to reporters but he will be back in the evening for the semi-finals.
Another favorite taking no chances on the seventh morning of the championships was Australia’s Sally Pearson, who confirmed her status with the fastest time in the heats for the women’s 100 meters hurdles.
“I didn’t want to take any risks,” said the Olympic silver medalist after her run of 12.53 seconds.
”My body wanted to run that fast so I let it. Not surprising really, because I‘m in shape, I‘m just satisfied that I‘m through.
“That was a heat, with no competition, so when I have competition and get a bit more fired up, who knows what can happen.”
Many a Briton at the 13th world championships would have woken up with a hangover on Friday after 400 meter hurdler Dai Greene gave next year’s Olympic hosts their first gold medal on Thursday evening.
Triple jump world champion Phillips Idowu, who will be hoping to match Greene’s feat on Sunday, had no such luxury but he too breezed through qualifying on Friday morning with a jump of 17.17 meters.
“My plan was to come out here and qualify quite easily and get home and relax to prepare for the final,” the 32-year-old said.
Six gold medals are up for grabs in the evening session, the highlight of which will be Allyson Felix’s bid for a fourth successive world title against a strong field in the women’s 200 final.
It looks, though, like Daegu Stadium has seen the last of double amputee Oscar Pistorius, who on Twitter declared himself “pretty guttered” after being told he would not be in the South African team for the 4x400m relay.
The “Blade Runner,” who made his major championships debut in Daegu after winning a legal battle and finally setting a 400m qualifying time, had run the first leg on his prosthetic carbon fiber legs in Thursdays heats.
“That’s me for the... World Champs! Gods blessed me! Semifinals in the 400m and a National Record in the 4x400m semi! Thank u all!x”
Editing by John O'Brien