Usain Bolt did it ugly, but he did it.
Bolt clumsily but effectively completed his first step towards the golden exit from the sport when he won his heat at the world championships.
He won in 10.08 seconds in messy fashion, slow out of the blocks and struggling in the middle of the field before he was able to do just enough in the second half of the race to win.
“That was very bad, I stumbled coming out of the blocks. I’m not very fond of these blocks. I think these are the worst ones I’ve ever experienced. I have to get this start together because I can’t keep doing this,” Bolt said.
“It’s shaky. When I did my warm up it pushed back. It is just not what I am used to. Not as sturdy or firm.
“The crowd is always wonderful. They always show me so much love and I always appreciate being here. I’m excited about getting through to that final and doing my job to my best.”
The whippy Japanese Shuhei Tada, about half the size of Bolt, was sharper from the start and for most of the race made a stark contrast to the tall and big striding but labouring Jamaican.
Bolt now has two runs – just 20 seconds – left in his individual career at best. If he does not fix up his start he might have just ten seconds remaining.
Meanwhile the London crowd proved that just as they have good memories of the 2012 Olympics and erupted at any eyebrow raise of Bolt’s, they also they also have strong, long and not so fond memories of others such as twice banned drug cheat Justin Gatlin.
The American was as popular here as he was in Rio last year. He was booed loudly by the capacity crowd as he was introduced at the blocks and then again when he won his heat in 10.05s.
“I am not worried about the crowds and I just focus on my start and my race. I am just here, seeing my team mates, seeing my countryman and just have a good time,” Gatlin said.
“Bolt looks good. He has his long legs so is not out of blocks very fast but he keeps the energy very well so that is going to count in the end.”
The 2011 world champion Yohan Blake finished second in his heat (10.13s) behind Japan’s Abdul Hakim Sani Brown (10.05s)
Jamaica’s Julian Forde was the only man to run sub 10 seconds winning his heat in 9.99s.
American Christian Coleman, the fastest man in the world this year heading into the championships, comfortably won the first heat in 10.01s into a slight head wind.