Originally posted on FOX Sports  |  Last updated 8/4/12
In just 10.09 seconds, Usain Bolt's return to the Olympics reminded us exactly why everybody is in awe of him, and also why insiders think he is totally messed up. Bolt won his heat easily enough and advanced to Sunday's semifinals. The truth is, he jogged most of the way. He shut off the burners when he knew it was over and coasted the rest of the way. As he crossed the finish line, he looked left at the other guys to see how far behind him they were. Sort of a nod to their inferiority. But the beginning of the race, through the first 20 meters, looked awkward. And that's where Bolt's problems have been for the past few months, if not the past few years. "The reaction was good, but I made a bad step and stumbled a bit,'' he said. "But it was good. I did some good training, I am feeling good, I am back, so I am happy. Without doubt, I am feeling great.'' Hmm. No, there is definitely something wrong with Bolt. He has not been all-in the past four years while the rest of the world has been chasing him. I still think he's going to win the gold in the 100 and the 200, as he did in Beijing in 2008, when he broke world records in both events. But Saturday's start tested faith. That said, Michael Phelps looked bad in his first race here, too. It seemed that his momentum was gone, that his little break after winning big in Beijing had allowed the world to catch up. Then he got better, and started winning. But the disturbing thing was that his problems were the same ones he has been having for a while. The start. The first 20 meters. He doesn't appear to know what to do. "He looked better in that heat than he did in the Jamaican trials and other races before,'' American Justin Gatlin said. Gatlin is trying to get into Bolt's head. I'm not sure it's working, but it is an impressive try. Bolt is supposedly in everyone else's head, other than Yohan Blake's. But for a couple of months, Gatlin has been successful enough to get Bolt to keep talking about him. Gatlin was the last man before Bolt to win the Olympics 100 meters, in Athens in 2004. He served a four-year doping ban after that, and now is back, amazingly posting good numbers again. Gatlin won his heat Saturday, too. "It's just who's going to put on the great, most technical race throughout the race,'' Gatlin said. Was that a shot at Bolt? Everyone knows that Bolt is not technically the greatest. "He looked good,'' Gatlin said, when I asked him about Bolt's start. "When you're 6-5, you're able to take less strides than the rest of us in the race. He looked good. "He looked like Bolt. I don't think there's anything scary or intimidating out there.'' I'm pretty sure that was trash talk, with Gatlin saying that Bolt is great, but nothing intimidating. In May, Gatlin ran the 100 in 9.87, beating Asafa Powell by .01, and saw that as his comeback statement. He said at the time that "They have watched the Bolt show for a couple of years and they want to see someone else in the mix as well. I'm glad to come up and step up and take charge with that.'' Bolt, a few days later, laughed and said, "I think (Gatlin) has a few guys to get past before he worries about me.'' Since then, Gatlin has gotten past Gay at the U.S. Olympic trials. That leaves only Bolt and Blake. On Saturday, all the main players won their heats and advanced: Bolt, Blake, Powell, Gay and Gatlin. But Bolt false-started at the world championship last year, costing him a shot at the race, and then got off to poor starts at the Jamaica trials. On Saturday, he said that at least his stumble came during qualifying, as if it were a one-time accident. The truth is that he has a problem and hasn't bothered to fix it. "He doesn't look like he's fixed his problems to me,'' said Maurice Greene, who won the Olympic 100 gold before Gatlin, in Sydney in 2000. Greene is working now for FOXSports during the Games. "It looked like he's still having the same problems he's had the past two years. "It's all about body position, driving out, accelerating. He's going to continue to look like that, and that's why he's going to lose.'' I'm still counting on the Bolt magic. The troubling thing is, that's what Bolt is counting on, too.
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