Usain Bolt, running at the Icahn Stadium at Randall’s Island where he set his first 100 metres world record in 2008, produced what he described as "one of the worst races I've run,” as he earned a narrow victory in the 200m at the International Association of Athletic Federations’ Diamond League meeting in New York City.
The 28-year-old multiple world and Olympic champion finished just three hundredths of a second ahead of his 19-year-old Anguilla training partner Zhamel Hughes in a time of 20.29sec in the 200m into a -2.8 metres per second headwind at the adidas Grand Prix meeting, a race where he had been hoping to get under 20 seconds.
Hughes clocked 20.32, while another emerging Caribbean talent, Jamaica’s Julian Forte, placed third in 20.46.
“I don't know what went wrong,” said Bolt.
“I can't tell you what the problem is but I just have to go back and keep putting in the work.
"It’s disappointing because I know I have been training well so it’s tough to explain why it went so badly.”
It was far from the ideal performance given that Bolt will defend his three world titles in just 69 days in Beijing, where he is due to meet 33-year-old Justin Gatlin of the United States, who has served two doping bans and now has an unbeaten run of 20 races.
In the 800m, Kenya's Olympic champion David Rudisha, won for the fourth successive time in New York City two weeks after a muscle spasm had forced him to leave the track during his race at the Ostrava Golden Spike meeting.
The pace maker carried Rudisha through the first lap in 50.10. Rudisha was ahead of the competition in a comfortable enough position not to go all out in the closing stages and ended up winning in 1min 43.58sec, just 0.02 slower than Mohammed Aman’s world-leading time.
“I was cautious today," said the Olympic champion.
"I started easier and I didn’t push too hard in the end.
“Now it’s time to go back to Kenya for two more weeks of training.”
Behind Rudisha, there was a surprise runner-up.
America's 22-year-old Boris Berian lowered his personal best by almost one-and-a-half seconds, from 1:45.30 to 1:43.84.
France’s Pierre-Ambroise Bosse finished third in a European-leading mark of 1:43.88.
The pre-race favourite in the women’s 800m also confirmed her status.
Ajee Wilson pleased the home crowd with a smooth race, leading from start to finish to win in 1:58.83, her second-fastest time of the season.
Cuba's riple jump world leader Pedro Pablo Pichardo needed just two efforts to win the triple jump with 17.56 metres.
Francena McCorory, the world indoor 400m champion, went away with a world-leading time and a meeting record of 49.86.
It was also the American's third straight IAAF Diamond League victory of 2015, giving her 12 points and a four-point lead in the Diamond Race.
Tori Bowie, another America, impressed in the 200m, clocking a season’s best of 22.23, despite a headwind of 2.8 metres per second.
Croatian discus thrower Sandra Perkovic is now just one victory away from capturing the overall Diamond Race title.
Perkovic unleashed a massive throw on her first attempt.
Her 68.44m throw was just four centimetres shy of her own meeting record. It was also her fifth straight victory this season and her third victory over the past 10 days.
“Three Diamond League meetings in 10 days – this is exhausting," said the world champion.
But it’s still fun, I love my job,”
Vitezslav Vesely earmed victory in the javelin and extended his lead in the Diamond Race to five points, but the Czech thrower only took two attempts after feeling a sharp pain in his groin in the first round.
As 83.62m was enough to put him in the lead, Vesely decided to be cautious.