Kingston: Jamaican Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt was beaten in his first race of the 2013 season on Sunday, finishing third in a low-key 400m event in his home town of Kingston.
The triple gold medallist from both the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics easily won his heat in 46.71 seconds at the Camperdown Classic, but he finished behind teammates Warren Weir and Yohan Blake, who both posted faster times in their heats.
“I’ve never been so nervous running a 400m, but overall I’m happy,” said Bolt. “Physically, I felt good, not as good as I normally would, but overall I feel good.
“I didn’t matter about the time, I just wanted to complete this race, I know I may have one more for the season, maybe two depending on what the coach wants.”
Weir, who finished third behind Bolt and Blake in the 200m final at London last year, won in a personal best time of 46.21 while Blake, racing in the same heat as Weir, stopped the clock at 46.64 after he made a blistering start only to fade in the final straight.
“I feel strong,” said Blake. “I tested myself in the first part of the race and that is what got the better of me in the home straight, but I’m feeling pretty good.”
Blake, who won the 100m world championship in 2011, when Bolt was disqualified for a false start, added: “Training is going really well, you know, I’m confident. I have the world championships to defend my title, and coach [Glen] Mills is just working on the different parts of my race and I’m feeling good.”
There was no final for the event, which was part of a meeting run by the Racers Track Club that attracted around 30 athletes.
Bolt is the world record holder and Olympic champion for the 100m and 200m but often competes in 400m races at the start of each season to build his fitness.
Next week, he is scheduled to appear in Texas for the National Basketball Association All-Star Game, but his major goal this year is the world championships in Moscow.
“It was about getting through the first one so I can be more confident for the others,” Bolt said. “I’m just very happy that I am fit at this time of the season, to be able to compete in this race.
“Training has been going very well. I haven’t had any problems and that’s a good sign, so I’m just working hard.”
Meanwhile, Bolt is getting to ready to show the world’s best basketballers he can jump as well as run, when he appears at the NBA’s All-Star weekend in Houston.
The sprinter was invited to play in the Celebrity Game, featuring a mixture of well-known people from all walks of life, including some former NBA players, at the showcase weekend from February 15-17.
“I’m very excited, you know,” Bolt said. “It’s something big and something good for me, so I’m just going to go out there to try and enjoy myself, try to dunk a few times.
“[I’m] not a good shooter, but hey.”
Bolt has all the physical attributes of an athlete who could make it in several sports and his appearance in Houston is sure to attract plenty of interest.
Not only does he run a like a thoroughbred, he says his 1.95m frame allows him to leap high enough to reach the basketball hoop.
“I can’t say I’m any good right now, because I stopped playing basketball and started to play football, so I’m really rusty,” he said. “But one thing, I’m sure I can dunk.”
Asked if he was worried about getting injured during the game, he laughed off the notion, saying he was only playing for fun.
“It won’t be anything aggressive,” he said. “It’s just all guys who know nothing [about basketball] or just play ball with their friends, so it should be easy and just fun.”