LONDON - Imperious Usain Bolt eased through the first round of the Olympic 200m on Tuesday as the Jamaican took the next step towards a sprint double after having already retained his 100m title in style.
Reigning champion Bolt showed no signs of fatigue as he ran the bend hard before relaxing in the home straight and strode over the line to win in 20.39sec in the first heat on a chilly morning in the Olympic Stadium. "This was an easy run. I am enjoying it," said Bolt. "This is my favourite event so I am looking forward to it." His main challenger for the 200m, Yohan Blake, also negotiated his passage into the next round with ease, as the Jamaican who took the silver behind Bolt in the short sprint won his heat in 20.38sec.
Blake said it was possible Bolt's three-year-old world record of 19.19sec could be under threat in the later rounds.
"The track is fast and Usain is fast so anything is possible," Blake said.
European challenger Christophe Lemaitre of France also went through after winning his heat in 20.34sec.
The challenge for the United States will come from Wallace Spearmon, who qualified second in his heat, while his US team-mate Maurice Mitchell also went through with a time of 20.54sec to win his heat. Spearmon is bidding to put behind him the disappointment of the Beijing 2008 final when he was disqualified from the bronze medal position for running out of his lane.
Bolt tribute to Liu after hurdles heartache
Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt paid tribute to Liu Xiang on Tuesday after the Chinese star suffered an agonising exit from the Olympics for the second time in a row. Liu, who had been forced to withdraw from the 110m hurdles in Beijing four years ago just moments before his first heat, fell at the first hurdle here Tuesday as he returned to the Olympic arena. The 29-year-old's sad exit from the competition sparked a wave of sympathy amongst athletes and spectators, with 100m champion Bolt leading the way. "It is really hard for him because I think he is one of the best, hands down," said Bolt after strolling through his opening 200m heat. "He has shown the world he can do great things. For him to push himself and come back last year... for this to happen, this is really sad for any athlete."