Commonwealth Games 2014: Adam Gemili fastest out of blocks in 100m

• England sprinter clocks 10.15sec before Monday’s final
• Kenya’s Caleb Ndiku wins 5,000m in Farah’s absence

Adam Gemili made a beguiling statement of intent when he qualified fastest for Monday’s semi-finals of the 100 metres but it left some wondering if it might be a grand illusion.

Gemili was all smiles after powering home in 10.15sec in his heat, 1/100th of a second quicker than the Jamaican Kemar Bailey-Cole and Trinidad & Tobago’s Keston Bledman. It was impressive but the heats of the 100m are not only about showing form but also conserving energy, especially with the semi-finals and final to come on Monday. Gemili barely slowed even when his race was long won.

Among the sceptics was Michael Johnson, the former 200m and 400m Olympic champion, who thought Gemili was too tense in finishing 0.25sec clear of the Nigerian Mozavous Edwards in his heat. “I wasn’t that excited by Gemili’s performance,” he said. “What has impressed me so much over the last couple of years is his technique and he looked a little tight there.

“He hasn’t run in a while and he’s been through a coaching change, so that may have something to do with it. When he runs well, I’d like to see him look a little more like he expects that, not like: ‘Oh my, God, that was really great.’”

Gemili disagreed. “I tried executing the first half of the race and then [to] ease it down in the second half and I believe I did that,” he said. “I think I’m going to have to break 10 seconds to get a gold medal, but I’m feeling in good shape so we’ll have to wait and see.”

A personal best of 10.04sec this season suggests Gemili is knocking at the door. He is also a championship performer: in Moscow last year he became only the second British athlete, after John Regis, to break the 20-second barrier for the 200m. He could yet perform a similar trick here.

Gemili will be encouraged by the lukewarm performances of the favourites, the Jamaican Nickel Ashmeade and Richard Thompson of Trinidad & Tobago. Ashmeade appeared to be limping after he won his heat at a canter in a moderate time of 10.40 while Thompson seemed to be over-trying in the last 30m and qualified only as a fastest loser.

Then again, it could be unwise to read too much into the early skirmishes. Thompson has run 9.82sec this season while Ashmeade posted 9.97sec on this track a fortnight ago. The heats are a game of bluff and counter-bluff; only in Monday’s final will the biggest players show their hand.

It was also difficult to draw many conclusions from the opening round of the women’s 100m especially as Michelle-Lee Ahye, the strong favourite having run 10.82 this season, pulled out of the Games after coming second in her heat in 11.52.

The favourites are now Blessing Okagbare, who qualified fastest in a time of 11.20, and the Jamaican Veronica Campbell-Brown, the 100m world champion in 2007 who is back after being cleared of a doping violation. England’s Asha Philip and Bianca Williams, who qualified for the semi-finals along with the third member of the team, Sophie Papps, might yet make it to the final but on this evidence a medal looks unlikely.

By the time the 100m heats got the opening day of the track under way Hampden Park was almost full – a vast improvement on the sparse crowds for the Diamond League meeting a fortnight ago. Outside the queues were long but good-humoured, with children invited for photographs on makeshift podiums to relieve the boredom.

Inside most of the tricks from the London 2012 playbook were resuscitated, including a constant barrage of nu-rave music to whip up the crowd, Kiss Cam, and the Weegie Wave – apparently a Glasgow version of the Mexican wave.

There was also an attempt at the “largest ever karaoke” with the Proclaimers I’m Gonna Be (500 miles), which was greeted by jiggly saltires but restrained vocal chords.

Most surprising of all was Helen Grant, the Conservative minister for sport who presented the men’s marathon medals, being greeted with restrained applause and not the boo-barrage that George Osborne, among others, suffered at London 2012.

Towards the end, the 1980 Olympic champion Alan Wells insisted the atmosphere was better than the famous Hampden Roar. That was a giant leap into ridiculousness. But it did get pretty loud in the final event, the men’s 5,000m which was won by the prodigiously talented 21-year-old Kenyan Caleb Ndiku.

He had dyed his hair gold in anticipation of meeting Mo Farah here, before the double Olympic and world champion pulled out last week.

It was intended to show he was not scared and the way he blasted past Isiah Koech, who won bronze in the 5,000m behind Farah at last year’s world championships, suggested it would have been a real contest. Certainly England’s Andy Vernon, who finished sixth, was impressed. “He’s pretty good,” he said. “He’d have certainly given Mo a run for his money if he’d been here.”

However, the biggest cheer of the day came when the 17-year-old Rosefelo Siosi from the Solomon Islands came home in 16min 55.33sec, a national record. Siosi, who was lapped three times, has won his country’s sportsman of the year award multiple times. Yesterday a standing ovation was his sole consolation.

Contributor

Sean Ingle at Hampden Park

The GuardianTramp

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