Usain Bolt electrifies Beijing, winning the 200 in a world-record time
This time he ran every meter of the race. He didn't sightsee. He didn't showboat. He didn't prance. This time Jamaica's Usain Bolt drove through the finish, waiting until he crossed the line to start the party.
Seattle Times staff columnist
BEIJING — This time he ran every meter of the race. He didn't sightsee. He didn't showboat. He didn't prance.
This time Jamaica's Usain Bolt drove through the finish, waiting until he crossed the line to start the party.
This time, in the 200, just as he had done three days earlier in the 100, Bolt ran faster than anybody in history.
Bolt grabbed another gold, running the 200 in 19.30, two-hundredths of a second faster than Michael Johnson's previous record, set at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
Before Wednesday night, I thought Johnson's race was the most thrilling I've seen in my eight Olympics. He combined the strength of a 400-meter man, with the speed of a 200-meter sprinter. And, on the turn, he found a gear that was superhuman.
He set a record I thought would not be broken in my lifetime. But Michael Johnson made the 200 look like work.
Bolt makes it look like fun.
His races aren't only thrilling, they're infectious. He breaks records and makes you smile while you're watching. He runs unaffected by his surroundings, as if he's still on his island, still racing the wind.
Once again, Bolt routed the field. He ran as if he wanted something more than gold. He ran as if his intention was to break Johnson's record.
And after he got it, he wrapped himself in the Jamaican flag and did a swivel-hipped island dance.
He sought out the camera that projected his image on the Bird's Nest's big screens and told the crowd, "I'm No. 1. I'm No. 1."
And struck the pose.
"It's called 'To the World,' " Bolt said of the pose, when he points his fingers and cocks his arm as if he's shooting an arrow.
The crowd roared back its love to him and then the public-address system played "Happy Birthday" to Bolt, who turns 22 on Thursday. The fans sang along.
Bolt became the first man to break both the 100 and 200 world records in the same Olympics. And the first since Carl Lewis in 1984 to win the sprint double.
Imagine what he might do when he grows up.
"He's got to get to 26, 27, 28 before he reaches his proverbial prime," former hurdles world-record holder Renaldo Nehemiah said. "He's still a baby and as he gets stronger, yeah, it gets scary to think about what he might do. But we just all want to be there to watch it. It's a beautiful thing."
So much for the post-Michael Phelps let-down. Bolt lit up the Beijing night. He mocked the field with his speed, not his antics. Churandy Martina finished a distant .52 seconds behind before being disqualified for lane infringement.
"To me he's just like Michael Phelps in swimming," said Shawn Crawford, the 2004 gold medalist, who won the silver in the event after his American teammate, Wallace Spearmon, was also disqualified. "He's raised the bar for us. Usain Bolt is the fastest man I've ever seen in my life. He put on a show tonight."
At 6 feet 5, Bolt has a special combination of speed and stride. Bolt eats meters like a drag racer. His sprinting is different from everyone is history. He doesn't pass runners. He swallows them.
If you're old enough to remember the first time you saw Muhammad Ali, the first time you saw Roberto Clemente, the first time you saw Magic Johnson, watching Bolt has that same never-seen-it-before feeling.
"He's beautiful to watch," Nehemiah said. "His stride, I mean, it's poetry in motion. He's not like a beast running. He's like a gazelle."
When Johnson won in Atlanta, he threw his arms open in shock. When Bolt won Wednesday he threw his arms open in joy.
"Those long strides, man — he takes one and I take 2 ½," said Kim Collins, who finished sixth. "I have to run 2 ½ times as fast. I took a hell of a butt-whoopin' from him.
"You're back there giving everything you got, and it's brutal. He's doing it and making it look so easy. Michael Johnson never made it look that easy."
Starting in Lane 5, Bolt got an unusually good start and made up the stagger seemingly by the first 75 meters. He finished a good four body lengths ahead of Martina.
"I blew my mind, and I blew the world's mind," Bolt said.
He's a can't-take-your-eyes-off-him blast.
"We always say that if you've got style, you better back it up," Nehemiah said. "Well, he backed it up. Then you see him having such a good time, and I think that's something our sport dearly needs."
And the beauty of Bolt is that after he won, he stayed on the track and invited the world to his party. And the world inside the Bird's Nest willingly came along.
Steve Kelley: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read his blog from China at www.seattletimes.com/Olympics
|A rare double|
|Usain Bolt became the ninth runner in Olympic history to win both the men's 100 and 200 at one Games.|
|2008||Usain Bolt, Jamaica|
|1984||Carl Lewis, USA|
|1972||Valery Borzov, Ukraine|
|1956||Bobby Joe Morrow, USA|
|1936||Jesse Owens, USA|
|1932||Thomas Tolan, USA|
|1928||Percy Williams, Canada|
|1912||Ralph Craig, USA|
|1904||Charles Hahn, USA|
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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