Bolt’s so fast he has us feeling dizzy
* Printer friendly version
* Normal font
* Large font
Dan Silkstone Berlin
August 22, 2009
Other related coverage
* Bolt blitzes 200m field for stunning world record
IN PUBS and offices and lounge rooms across Australia and around the world, let the argument begin. Is Usain Bolt the greatest sprinter the world has seen? Is he the greatest runner full stop?
He wants to be, and who could blame him? Normal-sized challenges are fast evaporating for the man who has already claimed two gold medals and two world records at the world championships in Berlin after claiming three of each at the Beijing Olympics.
‘‘I keep telling you guys, my main aim is to become a legend, that’s what I’m working on,’’ he said after setting a world record of 19.19 seconds on Thursday. ‘‘It’s a great feat for me to have broken my world record. I didn’t know I was going to break it.’’
On the minus side, the great Jamaican has been the dominant force in the sport for only the past two years.
How do you compare that with an athlete such as Carl Lewis, who showed greater versatility over a longer period and combined sprinting and long jump, two very different disciplines? Or Haile Gebrselassie, who has achieved domination and longevity - the two most difficult feats for any sportsman.
On the plus side, everything else.
Bolt is, unquestionably, more dominant than Lewis, who, from time to time, was known to lose. He blows world records away with a regularity and audacity that the great American never consistently managed.
In events previously decided by fractions of fractions of seconds, he wins by more than five metres. He produces his fastest runs on the biggest stages. Bolt’s feats here have taken the Jamaican to a level previously unseen in his sport. He does things deemed, until recently, impossible.
It was once thought that Michael Johnson’s 19.32 seconds for the 200 metres was a time built to last.
Twice now Bolt has exploded past it. It was thought that humans could not run 100 metres in 9.5 seconds. They can.
On Thursday he said there was no reason why 200 metres could not be run in under 19 seconds.
Previously, he was judged a slow starter; he has worked hard on that weakness. In the 100 metres he got away from the blocks quickly; in the 200 metres he was first out. Achilles minus his Achilles heel is a fearsome proposition.
Today he stands on the cusp of history as the 4 x 100 metres final offers up another gold medal and another record. Unfortunately for him, he needs the assistance of lesser men to get there. ‘‘I am ready for another world record with our relay, but I do not know whether my teammates are,’’ he said.
Memo to Michael Frater, Asafa Powell and co, drop the baton at your peril.
As a sprinter Bolt is beyond parallel, but as a man he is fast achieving similar status. In sport, we have known popular nice guys and swaggering showmen; not often have these traits co-existed in one man.
Before winning the 200 metres he entered the stadium wearing a T-shirt that read: Ich bin ein Berliner (I am a Berliner). How well do you reckon that went down with a German crowd already swept up in adoration?
Journalists love him because he talks well, smiles big and delivers classic quotes. Crowds love him because he dances, delights and makes all who pay to see him run leave the stadium feeling privileged to have witnessed it. He does not lack for charisma.
American Wallace Spearmon, who captured bronze in the 200 metres, admitted he had entered the race hoping for second place. That is what Bolt does to you. It seems bizarre to already be pondering how history will judge a man who we are still just getting to know. Perhaps most astonishingly of all, he is only 23.
He joked on Thursday that he would like a knighthood. If Nick Faldo can get one, then Queen Elizabeth should just hand it over without further delay. The street outside Berlin’s Olympic Stadium is named after Jesse Owens, who won gold in Bolt’s three events - as well as the long jump - in 1936. They might as well start building a new one now.
He is not one to rest on the laurels hung repeatedly around his neck these past 12 months or so. He wants to do this, at Olympics and world championships, over and over again.
We can probably say that his is the greatest short stretch of domination ever seen in the sport, that his is the greatest start to a career in living memory.
Then there’s that other bar-room argument. Roger Federer isn’t what he used to be. Tiger Woods is holding steady and Cristiano Ronaldo is an unlikeable tosser. In that argument, only Bolt is on the rise. As ever, he is moving fast.