Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lightning Bolt set to strike twice

Jamaica's Usain Bolt celebrates after winning the men's 200m semi-final 2 yesterday. He won ahead of US athletes Shawn Crawford and Wallace Spearmon. [Agencies]

China Daily/The Olympian
Updated: 2008-08-20 10:33

Jamaica's Usain Bolt has set himself up for the first Olympic sprint double since American Carl Lewis 24 years ago after scorching to the 100m title in world record-breaking style.

Bolt set the 91,000-capacity National Stadium alight on Saturday when he broke his own record in the shorter sprint in 9.69sec.

As he side-stepped his way into the record books in the Bird's Nest Saturday, he rewrote the limits of human capability. A time of 9.69sec barely told the whole story. After all, it is only 0.03 off his old mark, but it was the extravagant Hollywood manner he achieved it with. Had he not slowed up in the final 10m, he could have gone under 9.60 seconds.

The 1.96m giant, who turns 22 on Thursday, reduced the seven other fastest men in the world to extras in a dance routine as he turned sideways on to the stands and pranced across the line. The question now being asked is what the 21-year-old Jamaican can do to the record in the 200m, an event that he sees as his main discipline, when he races for the gold tonight.

"I was trying to see if I could take all the rounds," Bolt said after his 100m triumph.

"I've shown I can take it so I'm going to run the 200m.

"I'm not really worried about world records," he added. "I'm just coming here to win. That's the aim for me."

That's not to say he will not give it a full shot.

"It's my last individual event and I want to leave it on the track," Bolt said ahead of the semi-finals.

As well as revising records, Bolt has changed the perception of what a sprinter should be. While Johnson was a more conventional compact size, Bolt is outsize in every sense. When both he and compatriot Asafa Powell came off the track through the mixed zone, the normally powerful Powell was made to look diminutive by the younger man.

Over the longer sprint, Bolt is unbeaten and possesses the three fastest times in the world this year.

His 19.67sec time in Athens propelled him to fifth on the all-time lists and his victories in London (19.76) and Ostrava (19.83) were similarly impressive.

In those runs - and as was clear in his 100m performance at the Beijing Games - Bolt seems to hold some in reserve, which also raises the prospect of him being a real challenge to American Michael Johnson's world record of 19.32sec, set at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Bolt's main rival will likely be American Walter Dix, the bronze medallist in the 100m who beat defending Olympic champion Shawn Crawford at the US trials at 19.86sec and recorded a personal best of 19.69sec last season.

"I'm going to get ready for the 200m," said Dix after setting a personal best of 9.91sec in the 100m.

"I'm quite proud of the result but I know I have much more to do."

Crawford, who beat drugs-tainted compatriot Justin Gatlin to 200m gold in the Athens Games four years ago, has not shone on the international stage since, but has recently hit some good form.

American teammate Wallace Spearmon, who has won a 2005 silver and a 2007 bronze medal in the event and finished 0.04sec behind Dix and Crawford at the US trials, could also be among the contenders for a podium placing.

Among other potential rivals are Churandy Martina of the Dutch Antilles, who impressed in finishing fourth in the 100m at 9.93sec.

Martina said his performances in the 100m had given him heart.

"I improved my personal best three times and there's no better place to do that than right here."

Richard Thompson, the 100m silver medalist from Trinidad and Tobago, summed up the effect of trying to pursue Bolt in full flow.

"I could feel myself pulling away from the rest (of the field] and I could see him slowing down, but I'm still pumping to the line," he said.

The semifinals took place last night and the finals are scheduled tonight. Bolt finished first in his heat in 20.09 sec. Martina won his in 20.11 sec.


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