Usain Bolt thought he was primed to run a strong 200 metres at the Adidas Grand Prix in New York's Icahn Stadium on Saturday.
Instead, he ran his 'worst turn ever' and barely won with a tedious time of 20.29 that left the Jamaican bewildered with his continuing poor form as he tries to find his former speed in time for the world championships in August.
A strong headwind of 2.8 metres per second was a factor in his slow time, which was more than a full second slower than his world record.
But Bolt was discouraged by an inept turn that led him to question where he stands in his comeback from an injury-hit 2014. "This season is not going so smoothly," said 28-year-old Bolt. "I'm trying to figure out what's going on. I need to get on top of things to work my way back."
Seven years ago, Bolt exploded on the international scene in the New York meet by setting his first world record in the 100 metres on the way to double gold and double world records at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the 100 and 200 metres.
He became his sport's one true global superstar, but sprinting around the same Icahn Stadium track on Saturday, Bolt looked a pale shadow of his former self, though his mere presence still electrified the crowd.
He failed to show his runaway burst around the turn and barely held on down the straight to edge second-placed Zharnel Hughes of Anguilla, who timed 20.32. "My turn was horrible, I don't know what happened," Bolt said. "I really can't explain. "My worst turn ever."
Bolt had hoped to break 20 seconds in the race as he aimed to build towards the Beijing world championships in August after a 2014 season limited by injuries.
The Jamaican, whose 200m world record is 19.19, ran 20.20 in Kingston and 20.13 in Ostrava earlier this year. "I guess I have to sit with my coach, try to analyse and figure out what's going on and work on it. With this pace, I think this is going to mean trouble."
Bolt said he was not worried about any physical problem, but showed some jangled nerves when asked about going for a third sprint sweep at the 2016 Rio Games. "I'm not worried about Rio. I'm worried about what just happened and I just have to figure out what's going on this season," he said. "I need to buckle down and get everything right.
"I don't really know what happened today. Just got to go back to the drawing board and figure it out."
Bolt said he might have to return to the track sooner than he had expected. "The way I run today, I may have to run at trials," he said about the Jamaican world championship trials in two weeks.