BOLT... it’s still going to be a quick time

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) — Asafa Powell’s injury may have delayed the race of the season, but Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay said yesterday that they still expect a fast 100 metres race at today’s Diamond League meet in Stockholm.

The three fastest men in the world were due to face each other for the first time this year at the DN Galan, but Powell withdrew on Wednesday evening after failing to shake off a lower-back injury.

“It’s sad because I think people were really looking forward to the three of us (racing),” Bolt said. “But it’s still going to be a quick time.”

Bolt said that in the absence of Powell, he is still wary of the threat that Gay poses.

“In Jamaica a lot of people have been seeing me and saying ‘you can’t let Tyson beat you’,” Bolt said.

Powell said that he had been looking forward to facing his close rivals again. The Jamaican said that he sustained the injury three weeks ago, and is unsure when he will be able to compete again next.

“Since the start of the year, this was the race that I’ve been looking out for,” Powell said. “I’ve been very excited about it, so I’m very disappointed because I want to go out there and run against Usain and Tyson.”

Gay said that he had mentally prepared himself to face both of the Jamaicans in the 100 final at the ancient Olympic stadium.

“It put a little dampener on it, but it’s just as big a race,” Gay said. “I know I’m going to need to run my best to even be in the camera shot.”

Olympic champion Bolt and Powell share this season’s best time of 9.82 seconds.

Bolt set the current world record of 9.58 the last time the three met on the track, at the World Championships in Berlin last August.

As well as his performances, Bolt’s reputation as a showman has made him a huge draw in the Scandinavian capital. Hundreds of fans waited for hours at a city park to catch a glimpse of the Jamaican when he signed autographs for local children at an athletics clinic on Wednesday.

The big three’s faces adorn the event T-shirts on sale in the city, inevitably overshadowing many of the other matchups, in what is the 11th meeting of the Diamond League’s inaugural season.

European champion Blanka Vlasic of Croatia faces silver medallist Emma Green of Sweden and American Chaunte Howard-Lowe in the women’s high jump.

Howard-Lowe is also going to do one long jump prior to the high jump competition, to try to reach her ambition of being the only woman to jump both two metres in the high jump and seven metres in the long jump.

In the high jump, Howard-Lowe said she expects fierce competition from Green.

“I think it’s great for the meet that the hometown girl really has a shot at taking this thing,” Howard-Lowe said.

The women’s long jump is likely to be closely fought, with the three medallists from the recent European championship competing. The champion, Ineta Radevica of Latvia, and Portugal’s Naide Gomes both jumped 6.92 metres in Barcelona. Bronze medallist Olga Kucherenko’s jump of 7.13 is the season’s best.

Brittney Reese, the world champion, also jumps, as does the former Olympic heptathlon and home-crowd favourite Carolina Kluft of Sweden.

The shotput competition will take place separately from the other events for the third straight year yesterday at the Kungstradgarden, or “King’s Garden,” adjacent to the Royal Castle. The dominant American Christian Cantwell headlines.