Jamaican sprint superstar Usain Bolt fired to victory in the 100m in Ostrava on Wednesday in a modest 10.06 seconds, in what was his first appearance in Europe in his farewell season.
“I love this crowd’s high energy. That’s why I come back here. I love you,” said Bolt, in his ninth appearance in the northeastern Czech city.
“I’m not happy with the time, but I’m getting into it.”
Bolt, winner of eight Olympic and 11 world gold medals, will bring down the curtain on his glittering career at August’s world championships in London.
He again proved to have not lost any of his showman’s charisma as he played to the sell-out 15,000-capacity crowd at the Mestsky Stadium when introduced in hot, humid weather.
The field was a kind one for Bolt, only Jak Ali Harvey, previously of Jamaica but now representing Turkey, having gone below 10sec.
Starting in lane five, Bolt was somewhat tardy in getting up and out of the blocks, the 100 and 200m world record holder easily matched by Cuban Yunier Perez outside him over the opening half of the race.
As the crowd roared, so Bolt responded as he has so many times before, moving into his famed “drive phase”, head coming slowly up as part of the process that unleashes the full power from his long legs.
For a flash moment, Perez looked like he might have had the better of the towering Jamaican, but it was not to be as Bolt powered home with a knowing look across to the Cuban from 20 metres out.
Bolt ripped through the finish line, eyes glued on the stadium’s big screen at the end of the 100m track.
Perez came in second in a personal best of 10.09sec, with Bolt’s winning time far off his world record of 9.58sec, set back at the Berlin world championships in 2009.
The Jamaican has consistently been a beacon for clean athletes amid doping and corruption scandals that mired Sebastian Coe’s first couple of years in office as IAAF president.
His absence from the sport will leave a void that will be tough to fill, as shown by the hero’s send-off he was afforded by the Ostrava crowd after the Jamaican anthem was played.