NEW YORK — On a humid afternoon that offered a hint of much-needed hope for one American sprinter, the Jamaicans didn’t wait long to remind the track and field world that the small island nation essentially owns the deed to the 100-meter race.
Yohan Blake, the reigning world champion, won the 100 at the Adidas Grand Prix with an impressive time of 9.90 seconds. Blake said he felt "pretty flat" and had hoped for a better mark.
“I'm ‘The Beast,’ right? I don't expect anybody to be beside me,” the 22-year-old said. Keston Bledman, an Olympic silver medalist from Trinidad and Tobago, finished second with a time of 9.93 seconds and American Michael Rodgers (9.99) was third.
For Blake, the only ones even close this season have been his countrymen. Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell and Blake have posted the world's four best 100 times this year, and two other Jamaicans have also finished in fewer than 10 seconds.
The Americans will learn later this month at the U.S. track and field team trials which sprinters they’ll send to London to challenge Bolt & Co., but Saturday’s meet did provide a bit of good news.
Much of the attention at Icahn Stadium was focused on one of the day's lesser races. American Tyson Gay, who underwent hip surgery last summer, was competing for the first time in nearly a year and had no trouble besting the field in the 100-meter “B” final.
More important, Gay's finish time of 10 seconds flat into a slight headwind gives him much-needed encouragement just two weeks before he’s scheduled to run at the U.S. Olympic team trials.
“I would like to get one more race in before the trials,” Gay said, “but if I don’t, I’m just going to go in there with a positive mind-frame, put it together and make the team.”
Though he battled aches and pain before the race, Gay, the American record holder in the 100, said his hip was not a problem Saturday.
“It’s one of those issues where it’s making me feel older than what I really am," he said.
In other races Saturday, South African Oscar Pistorius missed out on another chance to qualify for the Olympics. Pistorius is trying to become the first double-amputee to compete in the Games. Running on carbon fiber prosthetic blades, he needs to turn in a time of at least 45.30 seconds in the 400-meter by month’s end. In Saturday’s race, Pistorius finished last in the final heat with a time of 46.14 seconds.
“It’s frustrating when you know you’re strong . . . but the times aren’t coming,” he said.
Saturday’s men’s 400 was won by Dominican runner Luguelin Santos, who finished in 45.24 seconds, six-tenths of a second faster than second-place finisher, American Jeremy Wariner.
In the men’s 800, world record holder David Rudisha, of Kenya, was running for the first time in the United States and did not disappoint, winning his heat with a time of 1:41.74. It’s the fastest mark ever posted on American soil and only 0.73 seconds off the world-record pace Rudisha posted last May.
“I wanted to run something special here,” he said. “I was very excited.”
Robby Andrews, a former middle-distance runner at the University of Virginia, finished in fifth place with a time of 1:45.06 seconds, and fellow American Michael Rutt was sixth, finishing in 1:45.20 seconds.
The women’s 100 featured a much-anticipated showdown between Americans Allyson Felix and Carmelita Jeter, but it was Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce who stole the show, winning with a time of 10.92 seconds.
“Today was never about the win,” Fraser-Pryce said. “It was about getting everything right before our national championship.”
American sprinters took the next three spots: Tianna Madison was second, finishing in 10.97 seconds, Jeter third, finishing in 11.05 and Felix fourth, finishing in 11.07.
After three false starts in the men’s 110-meter hurdles, American Jason Richardson, the defending world champion, won with a time of 13.18 seconds. He said the false starts were no match Saturday for his mental focus.
“Today showed me I have a mind of steel,” he said. “I could probably use objects with my mind.”