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Jamaica's Blake sets sights on top sprint ranking

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake is pacing himself in his comeback from hamstring problems that undercut him last year but he aims to finish on top of the world by the time the season is over.

"In 2012 I started the season ranked number one," Blake told Reuters on Friday. "I want to get that ranking in 2014. That's what I'm really working on, to get back on top."

Blake will take his next step on what he hopes is a fast track back on Saturday at the IAAF Diamond League New York grand prix on Randall's Island across the East River from Manhattan.

The sixth stop of the 14-event athletics series will also feature world 800 meters record holder and Olympic champion David Rudisha of Kenya, women's Olympic pole vault champion Jenn Suhr and Ukraine's Bohdan Bondarenko, world champion in the high jump.

Blake rose to the top ranking after a breakout 2011 season in which he won the world championship 100 meters in Daegu, becoming at age 21 the youngest 100m champion in a field diminished by the disqualification of compatriot Usain Bolt for a false start.

Bolt, the double Olympic champion and world record holder in both the 100 and 200 meters, has overshadowed all sprinters since his meteoric rise in 2008, but Blake harbors no resentment of his good friend and training partner.

"We have spent a lot of time together ... and talk about a lot of stuff, like cartoons," Blake said. "We have a wonderful chemistry."

Blake, who finished second to Bolt in both the 100 and 200m at the 2012 London Olympics, said he does not feel frustrated about being overshadowed and believes his time will come.

ESCAPING SHADOW

Blake made believers of those who doubted his prowess on the track by clocking a time of 9.69 seconds in 2012, tied for second fastest man behind Bolt's record of 9.58.

"I believe in time. When it's your time, it's your time," he said. "People say I was in the shadow of Usain, now I'm out. I'm the second fastest in the world. It's not much about being in the shadows but being in the spotlight of my own right now."

Blake, who was noncommital about whether he was planning to compete in this summer's Commonwealth Games in Scotland, said he looked forward to his next showdown against Bolt.

"I don't mind racing against anyone. I love competition. I love fast races," he said, before adding that the complexities of scheduling were out of his hands.

Blake's camp, however, on Friday hinted that a showdown between the two Jamaican sprinters could come next year.

"It's always good to run against the best in the sport," said Blake, who races the towering Bolt in practice and said they are usually tight contests. "It's always fun, though it's tough when you're taking two strides when he's taking one."

Blake, who last month anchored a Jamaican team to victories in the 4x100 and a world record time in the 4x200 at the IAAF World Relays, said he was fit and had something to prove after being unable to defend his world title last year because of injury.

"Last year was a disappointment for me, but now I'm back and I can't wait to go out there and show the world."

(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by ......)

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