Saturday, August 16, 2008
USAIN "Battered them. Stunned them. Humiliated them"
- Michael Dodge photo
Usain Bolt blows 'em away in 100m final
Mike Colman in Beijing | August 17, 2008 12:00am
THE record books will say last night's Olympic men's 100m final lasted 9.69 seconds. They're wrong. It will last for ever in the memory of anyone who saw it.
How can one man - no, make that one kid not yet 22 years-old and as laid-back as a teenager - run that fast? It was a performance that was, at once, staggering and shocking.
Usain Bolt didn't just beat the fastest 100m fields ever assembled. He battered them. Stunned them. Humiliated them.
This, after all, was a young man who didn't even consider himself a specialist 100m runner. The 200m is his race. It is better suited to his long legs and slow wind-up.
That's the theory anyway, a theory that Bolt threw into the top deck of Beijing's Birds Nest in the most extraordinary sprint in history.
It wasn't that he wasn't expected to win. The Jamaican's form in the heats and semi-final in which he seemed to be toying with both his opponents and the stopwatch saw him lining up for the final as hot favourite.
But this was the Olympics. The biggest stage in world sport.
Plus there was the question mark over Bolt's countryman Asafa Powell.
Powell had beaten him last time they ran, just a few weeks ago in Munich. Surely he too was holding something in reserve during the preliminary rounds. After all, this was Powell big chance. His last chance.
Twice in the last four years he had gone in to major championships expected to win. Twice he had come up short. If Jamaicans have an equivalent of the term "choker", that's what Powell faced being called for the rest of his life.
There were others in the field too of course, but not the great American hope Tyson Gay. He failed to make it through the semi-final.
He said he was disappointed, bitter even. After watching what Bolt did to the seven other runners who did make it to the final, he might consider himself lucky.
No-one could have predicted what happened at precisely 10.30pm Beijing time.
It started with the announcer's voice booming around the stadium.
"And now the last event on tonight's programme. The men's 100 metres final."
He could have saved his breath and just used one word. "Showtime."
As Bolt was introduced to the crowd he waved and pretended to pull back an imaginary bow and arrow. He smiled and danced to the music. He was so relaxed he might have been lining up for a race with his mates on a beach back home in Jamiaca.
In comparison his fellow finalists were reserved to the point of appearing scared.
All except for American Walter Dix. With his cornrow braided hair, white framed sunglasses and brash attitude, the former US college champion looked more like we have come to expect from a world class 100 metre sprinter. A combination professional wrestler, rock star and finely tuned machine.
Powell didn't have the confidence or the personality to play any pre-race games. He had what appeared an overly contrived air of indifference. Maybe it was fright.
Maybe he already knew what the rest of us were about to find out. Powell had nothing more to give.
And Bolt? Well, he was just having a ball.
As the rest of the field took their blocks, he continued to stand and rock from side to side in time with the music, a big smile on his face. The race was delayed as the starter waited.
Then the gun went off and it was all over. Bolt kept his big frame hunched for 30 metres then stood and those long legs ate up the track. He didn't just run, he flew.
With two metres left he was so far in front that he spread his arms and lifted his knees, like an NFL star hot-dogging in the in-zone.
He was throwing kisses to the crowd by the time Powell crossed the line, out of the medals.
Then Bolt took off his gold shoes and kissed them.
Look closely at those shoes when you see the photos. Hard believe, but there are no wings.