It's been a rough summer for track and field, with drug scandals and injuries taking several players out of contention for the IAAF World Championships. But the sport's biggest name, Usain Bolt, is on his marks for this year's edition of the biennial event, August 10—18 in Moscow (airing daily on Universal Sports and NBC, see full schedule below).
The six-time Olympic gold medalist got off to a shaky start this season with a June loss to American Justin Gatlin at an invitational meet in Rome. NBC/Universal Sports analyst Ato Boldon cites other commitments for diluting the Jamaican's training, but he's confident Bolt will step up. "When it's time for a championship," Boldon says, "his management locks out a period of time, really the only time of the year, when he can have really good consistent and continuous training."
In Moscow, Bolt will look to reclaim the 100-meter-dash title he lost in 2011 (when he was disqualified for a false start) and win gold for the third consecutive time in the 200 and 4x100 relay. He set the current world record in the 100 (9.58 seconds) and 200 (19.19) at the 2009 IAAF championships.
The 100 is the highlight of the meet's opening weekend and Boldon believes that if Bolt can get off to a good start, his challengers — led by Gatlin and Bolt's countryman Nesta Carter — will be battling for the silver. "When Bolt is on form, no one ever gets far enough ahead in the early going to bother his race strategy much," says the Emmy-nominated Boldon, the 1997 world champion in the 200 and a four-time Olympic medalist. "His final 50 meters are the best there has ever been, and it has bailed him out of a ton of bad races."
The women's 100 promises to be much more competitive. Defending champion Carmelita Jeter of the United States struggled with injuries earlier in the season, but appears to be getting back to top form. Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has shown that she knows how to perform on the biggest stage, having won the last two Olympic gold medals in the event.
"I think Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is the favorite until we see different," Boldon says, "but different might be in the form of Blessing Okagbare, who I think is going to have a breakout world championships." The Nigerian (who competed for the University of Texas-El Paso) has been having a sensational season, setting an African record in the 100 (10.79) last month to beat Fraser-Pryce at a meet in London. The Olympic bronze medalist in the long jump back in 2008, Okagbare's sprinting has become more consistent this summer. Notes Boldon: "She doesn't decelerate as much at the end of her races, which means she's always coming on with a furious rush." The final is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 12.
If you're lucky enough to have Universal Sports, there's plenty of live coverage (also streaming at universalsports.com for those who have the channel). If not, NBC has weekend shows. Here's the full TV schedule (all-times Eastern):
Saturday, Aug. 10 — 1:30am—5:30am, Universal Sports; 3:30pm—5:00pm, NBC
Sunday, Aug. 11 — 1:00—5:00am, Universal Sports; 12:30pm—2:00pm, NBC
Monday, Aug. 12 — 1:30am—4:30am, Universal Sports; 12:00pm—2:00pm, Universal Sports
Tuesday, Aug. 13 — 1:30am—5:30am, Universal Sports; 12:00pm—2:00pm, Universal Sports
Wednesday, Aug. 14 — 12:30am—4:00am, Universal Sports
Thursday, Aug. 15 — 1:30am—4:00am, Universal Sports; 11:30am—1:30pm, Universal Sports
Friday, Aug. 16 — 1:30am—4:00am, Universal Sports; 11:30am—1:30pm, Universal Sports
Saturday, Aug. 17 — 12:00pm—12:30pm, NBC; 12:30—2:30pm, Universal Sports; 2:30pm—4:00pm, NBC
Sunday, Aug. 18 — 2:30pm—4:00pm, NBC