Yohan Blake is one of the few Olympic medal-winning athletes to have stated he didn’t mind finishing second. When the world’s fastest man – a fellow countryman to boot – beats you to gold, perhaps it doesn’t hurt as much. Rising star Blake had already pulled off shock victories over Usain Bolt in the run-up to th eGames, beating him to gold in the 100m at the World Championships in Daegu in 2011, and taking first place in the 100m and 200m at the 2012 Jamaican Olympic trials.
Blake – who trains with the sprint superstar under coach Glen Mills – believes he could have won the 100m in London. He said: “I think I panicked a bit, but I think I held my composure. Reaching the last 40 metres I started to tighten up a bit and I didn’t pull through.” It may be a bold claim, but Blake is just 22 years old and his recent 100m personal best of 9.69s makes him the joint second fastest man alive with Tyson Gay – Bolt, of course, being the fastest. A keen and talented cricketer, Blake made an immediate impact as a junior when he moved into athletics, setting the fastest time by a Jamaican junior sprinter over 100m with 10.11 seconds.
In 2008 Bolt namechecked his protégé as one to watch and inadvertently coined his nickname, saying: “He works like a beast. He’s there with me step for step in training.”
After a lacklustre 2009 “The Beast” stepped up a gear the following year, upping his personal best in the 100m to 9.93s. His speedy progress continued, although that first World title in Daegu was a bittersweet win, having been achieved in the absence of Bolt, who was disqualified from the race after false starting. There were high hopes the young pretender could outrun Bolt in London after his stunning success at the Jamaican trials. But in the end Blake took a silver medal. And he won his only gold of 2012 as part of the national 4x100 Relay team, smashing the word record with a time of 36.84 – and meaning he still finished his first Olympic Games with three medals
Afterwards he said: “The relay is special, you give everything for the team, so yes, you sometimes run faster. We have an excellent coach who prepares us to run in all situations.” And asked about his 100m battle with Bolt, he told journalists: “Only the fastest man in the world beat me. Only four years ago, I was still in High School and watching the Olympics on TV, so it was amazing for me to be among these athletes.” Can Yohan Blake eventually overtake his training partner Bolt as the reigning sprint king of the world? He believes so.
One month after his triple-medal jaunt to London he told a journalist who asked just that: “One day I will and it will be soon because I'm hungry. I want it. So one day. I won't put any time frame, it’ll just gradually happen.” Having already bumped his 100m best time to 9.69s, at the Athletissima Diamond League meet in Lausanne, Switzerland one month after the London Games, it looks as if Blake is inching closer to the master.