OSTRAVA (Czech Republic) • Usain Bolt's preparations for the world championships in August received a worrying and unexpected jolt on Wednesday when he struggled to win his penultimate race before defending his 100m and 4x100m titles in London - and then admitted to having "some health issues" afterwards.
The giddy crowd at the Golden Spike meet in Ostrava had come expecting the full Bolt.
The poses, the smiles, the selfies - and, most of all, the raging afterburners applied halfway down the home straight.
Yet, when the muscular Cuban Yunier Perez came alongside him at the midpoint of the 100m race, Bolt, 30, pressed on the accelerator and found very little.
True - the Jamaican still had enough to come through in 10.06sec, but Perez was worryingly close in second, just 0.03 behind.
It was the first time Bolt has recorded back-to-back times over 10sec in the same season since turning professional - and with some suggestions of a minor limp at the finish his chances of successfully defending the world 100m title in a month's time are far from certain.
Not that Bolt sees it that way.
"I had some health issues which caused the time, and it does not represent quality," he said. "I'm not happy with it but I'm just getting into my running, improving the execution, so I'll be fine. No worries, when I get checked out by my doctor and the coach is giving me some training, I'll be fine."
Before he races again, at the Diamond League event in Monaco on July 21, Bolt is planning a trip to Germany to see Dr Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt, his longtime physician.
Certainly the conditions were perfect for sprinting - that much was obvious from watching the South African Wayde van Niekerk slip under Michael Johnson's 17-year-old world best in the seldom-run 300m earlier in the evening.
Van Niekerk, who also took Johnson's 400m world best in winning the Olympics in Rio last year, blasted out of the blocks and finished strongly in 30.81 - beating Johnson's time by 0.04.
Bolt, however, still looked ring-rusty - understandable, given that it was only his second race of the season after a sluggish 10.03sec in Kingston this month.
It was hardly the ideal run - especially with his coach Glen Mills admitting on Wednesday that Bolt has some catching up to do after missing three weeks' training following the death of his close friend, Germaine Mason, the former Great Britain Olympic silver medal-winning high jumper, in April.
Mills said: "His preparation is not normally where it used to be at this time, so he certainly has ground to catch up. A big chunk of his training has been affected.
"It was a big blow; he took it very hard. It affected him in terms of his training... I am not sure if he is totally over it."
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS