By Mark Trevelyan
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – A “reborn” Yohan Blake believes he can tame his nerves when he stands on the starting line of the Olympic 100 meters final and seize his moment in athletics history, stepping out of the shadow of Usain Bolt.
In London four years ago, Blake took silver behind Bolt in the 100 and 200 meters. In an interview with Reuters he described how he felt his running vest quiver from the pounding of his heart as he waited for the start.
“What’s going to be different this time? I’m more wiser, I’m more stronger, I’m more focused, I’m not young any more. I’m not naive. So this time I won’t be too nervous,” the 26-year-old said.
Blake radiates a fierce intensity as he mentally rehearses how he intends to prepare for Sunday’s 100 meters final, assuming he emerges from the qualifying rounds starting on Saturday.
“When I go to the track I try to have some fun, like, me and Usain, we’ll be laughing with each other, we’ll be talking about random stuff. You know, try to keep active, not to think about it too much.
“Then, when it comes to the start line, now we all throw away that, we are not friends.”
Then comes the moment that some describe as the most thrilling of any Olympic Games — the silence that descends on the stadium as the athletes wait for the gun and prepare to explode from the blocks.
“What’s going through my mind? All kinds of things. You know: ‘I’m just Yohan Blake. Don’t pop up too early. Stay focused. Hold your form together and just try to hang on.'”
Blake has fought his way back from years of hamstring problems and won the sprint double at last month’s Jamaican trials. Bolt missed those with a minor injury, also a hamstring.
Blake says those problems are now behind him. “Yes I’m very confident, I haven’t been feeling anything. I feel reborn again. I feel brand new.”
He is not keen to talk about what it would mean to him to defeat Bolt, 29, in the latter’s final Olympics.
“You know, I’m not focusing on that. I just want to execute my race and anything that happens, happens.”
Asked in which event he feels his chances are strongest, he replies without hesitation: “I think the 200 meters, because I have more speed endurance. I run a pretty quick time, 19.26, and I know I can go back even faster.”
Blake, who prays before races and speaks often of his faith in God, says he has ditched his old ‘Beast’ image.
“Well actually I changed that name. I’m the blessed one now. Yes, so this time you’re going to see a whole different thing,” he said.
“When I start running on Saturday, it’s going to be my time.”
(Reporting by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Toby Davis)