Coming off a rare loss at 100 meters, Olympic and world champion Usain Bolt is cutting his season short, saying he won't race again in 2010 because of tightness in his lower back.
The Jamaican's manager, Ricky Simms, wrote in an e-mail Tuesday that the world record-holder at 100 and 200 meters will have treatment to loosen his back and then rest, skipping IAAF Diamond League track and field meets in Zurich on Aug. 19, and in Brussels on Aug. 27.
"It is better for me not to take any risks this year," Bolt said, according to Simms. "2011 and 2012 are very important ... and I hope to be back fully fit and healthy. I ... look forward to coming back stronger next year."
Bolt hadn't lost an individual race in two years until Friday, when Tyson Gay of the United States beat him at the DN Galan meet in Stockholm. Gay ran 9.84 seconds, and Bolt finished in 9.97 – nearly 0.40 slower than his record for the 100.
Given the 6-foot-5 Bolt's recent dominance and his dynamic, crowd-pleasing personality, the sabbatical he's taking is a blow to track and field in the short term, but should give the sport a boost when he returns.
Just ask Gay, who already is looking forward to taking on Bolt again sometime next year.
"It's kind of like boxers – everyone is waiting for 2 heavyweights to clash. So when they do clash, it's exciting. But you don't see the heavyweights fight 2-3 times a year," Gay wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press on Tuesday. "So even though I was hoping we (would) race 2-3 times for the fans this year, him taking his break to get healthy for next year will make things that much more exciting for 2011!"
Ato Boldon agrees.
Boldon won four sprint medals at the 1996 and 2000 Summer Games and now is a TV analyst. He knows a good story line when he sees it.
"This is the best thing that could've happened for the 2011 season – Bolt losing like this and having to go away. If he gets the urge to party too much and not train ... I think every time he's tempted to do that in the offseason in 2011, he goes, 'I've got that crazy American guy gunning for me,'" Boldon said.
Simms said Bolt was examined Monday by a doctor in Munich who found the back problem.
"He has a tightness that restricts his ability to generate power in his stride and continuing to race in this condition could risk injury to his hamstrings or calf muscles," Simms wrote.
Simms said the decision to take time off was made "with a view to his future career."
He also said that an MRI exam showed that a previous left Achilles' tendon injury that caused Bolt to take time off earlier this year is healed.
The back injury "may be something where he can run on it. But run on it and risk the next three years? If Usain Bolt was my athlete, and somebody in the medical field says he has an issue where he could run and be fine or could get injured and be laid up? Guess what: That would be the end of that," Boldon said. "There's nothing to win this year. There's no sense in risking anything else."
The next outdoor world championships are in Daegu, South Korea, in August 2011; the 2012 Summer Olympics are in London.
After beating Bolt on Friday, even Gay acknowledged he wasn't racing against a fit opponent. In a Facebook posting Tuesday reacting to Bolt's announcement, Gay wished Bolt the best and said: "I've had my own injuries in the past, so I understand his decision as well as anyone."
When the 23-year-old Bolt is in top gear, no one has come close to him.
"People felt the margin was so great that he could roll out of bed, almost literally, and put away anybody else in the world, including Gay," Boldon said. "People are now like, 'You know what? Maybe not.' If he's not ready to run in top form, this becomes a real tight race."
The Jamaican stole the show on the track at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, winning gold medals and breaking the world records in the 100 and 200 sprints, as well as the 400 relay. None of the finals in those events was even close, and Bolt began his celebration in the dash before it was done, stretching out his arms with palms up, then slapping his chest.
He followed up that performance at last year's world championships in Berlin by lowering his marks in the 100 to 9.58, in the 200 to 19.19.
"He is the most-known athlete we currently have, and he's definitely someone that the public asks for," said Patrick Magyar, the director of Zurich's Weltklasse meet and vice chairman of the Diamond League. "If he was just not in the best of shape, he would still have come, but he is obviously at risk of hurting his body – and nobody wants that to happen."
AP Sports Writers Chris Lehourites in London, Graham Dunbar in Geneva, and Pat Graham in Denver contributed to this report.