Yohan Blake heading to Rio as a double Jamaican champ
KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — Yohan Blake checked the clock as he crossed the line, then knelt for a moment in prayer and tore open his singlet in his traditional manner of celebration.
And he looks every bit the part of an Olympic contender again.
Just as he did four years ago, Blake is going to the Olympics as Jamaica's national champion in the 100- and 200-meter dashes. Blake won the 100 on Friday and capped his country's senior national championships — the nation's version of an Olympic trials — on Sunday with a win in the 200, prevailing in 20.29 seconds.
"The feeling is really good," Blake said. "Four years ago, I won. Four years in the future, I won again. That just shows I have heart. I've been working miracles in my life. This is what miracles are all about. I listen to my coach, I execute my race well and I get the victory."
He doesn't make it seem miraculous.
At times, such as Sunday, he makes it seem easy.
Blake beat Usain Bolt in both the 100 and 200 finals on this same track at National Stadium four years ago. There was no Blake vs. Bolt showdown this time, with Bolt pulling out of the meet on Friday night with a mild tear in his left hamstring that puts some doubt on his availability for the Rio Olympics next month — where he wants to become the first man or woman to win gold in the 100 three times.
Blake fully expects Bolt to be ready for Rio.
Right now, though, there's no doubting that Blake is ready.
"The plan is to go back in training," Blake said. "I need to focus my driving my foot, so I can be faster. ... I could have gone 19 today. I just needed the win."
Nickel Ashmeade — who was also second to Blake in the 100 final on Friday — was second again, this time in 20.45 seconds. Julian Forte was third in 20.46.
All Blake had to do this weekend was avoid disaster, which he did. The same couldn't be said for world 100-meter hurdles champion Danielle Williams, who clipped a hurdle in the final and crashed out of the race — with the win going to Megan Simmonds in 12.79 seconds.
Simone Facey won the women's 200 final, collapsing to the track in disbelief and tears after crossing the line and holding off Veronica Campbell-Brown.
Facey prevailed in 22.65 seconds, while Campbell-Brown — who officially clinched her fifth Olympic spot — was second in 22.80 seconds. Elaine Thompson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce both pulled out of the final shortly before it started, with no reason immediately offered by Jamaican officials.
Thompson was the world silver medalist in the 200 last year and matched Jamaica's national record in the 100 with her time of 10.70 seconds in that final on Friday night.
The 34-year-old Campbell-Brown won gold in the 200 at Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008. A seven-time Olympic medalist in all, Campbell-Brown said she — like many other stars in this meet — has been dealing with an injury in recent days, her malady being a shoulder problem.
"It's time to get right for the rest of the season," Campbell-Brown said.
All who qualified for the Rio Games were ordered to report to Jamaican medical authorities Sunday night to get vaccinated for yellow fever, if they had not already. And men's sprinter Kemar Bailey-Cole told reporters in Jamaica last month that he has caught the Zika virus, though he competed in the national championships. There's also the logistical issues that await the national selection committee, such as what to do with Bolt.
None of that is slowing Blake down.
Asked if he would run the 100-200 double in Rio, Blake didn't hesitate.
"Oh, definitely," Blake said. "I have to replicate what I do best."