LONDON—Usain Bolt slowed coming around the bend, looked to his left and saw his lead shrinking.
So the Jamaican turned the speed back up a notch for a few strides, enough to ensure he would win his semifinal heat in 20.18 seconds Wednesday night, moving closer to becoming the first man with two Olympic golds in the 200 meters.
The man two lanes over who was gaining on Bolt, Anaso Jobodwana of South Africa, finished in 20.27 to reach Thursday’s final, too.
Bolt already successfully defended his 100 title from the Beijing Olympics on Sunday, joining American Carl Lewis as the only men with two golds in a row in the dash.
Now he’s got his sights set on another repeat.
“There’s a lot of people there who have come to spoil the party, so we’ll see,” Bolt said.
Four years ago in Beijing, he won the 100, 200 and 4x100 relay, all in world-record time. He went on to break his marks in the two individual races at the 2009 world championships—records that still stand, 9.58 in the 100 and 19.19 in the 200.
Asked about the chances of a world record in Thursday night’s 200 final, Bolt replied: “There’s a possibility, definitely. I can’t say (for sure), but the track is fast. It’s going to be a good race.”
The field will include Bolt’s teammate and training partner, 100 silver medalist Yohan Blake, who barely won the first semifinal heat in 20.01 seconds.
Blake—given the nickname “The Beast” by his pal Bolt because of the intensity of his practices—really toned down his speed, nearly too much, and had to outlean Wallace Spearmon of the US, who was 0.01 back in second place, and Christophe Lemaitre of France, who was another 0.01 back in third.
“You know the nature of ‘The Beast,’” Blake said. “I find myself out in front, and I just cruised from there.”
Churandy Martina of the Netherlands, Warren Weir of Jamaica and Alex Quinonez of Ecuador also advanced.
At the last Olympics, Martina and Spearmon finished second and third to Bolt in the 200 but didn’t head home with medals to show for it. They were disqualified for running out of their lanes.
Asked Wednesday if Bolt and Blake, the world champion in the 100, are beatable, Spearmon said: “Yeah, man. That’s why we are racing. If they weren’t beatable, they would just hand them medals, and we’d race for third.”
Bolt won the 100 in 9.63 seconds, the second-fastest time in history.
He’s been really turning off his warp-speed ability in the 200 so far, jogging to the finish in the opening round, then trotting for a bit at the midway point of the semifinal before realizing he couldn’t completely kid around anymore.
“If I just ran 9.6, I’d probably be jogging, too,” Spearmon said. “He’s fast, man. He’s fast.”