Monday, 17 August 2009 Bolt’s intends to keep doing it year after year - Berlin 2009
(L-R) Tyson Gay of United States, Usain Bolt of Jamaica, Daniel Bailey of Antigua and Barbuda and Marc Burns of Trinidad and Tobago compete in the men’s 100 Metres Final (Getty Images)
relnews Berlin, Germany - Until last night there had been no place in athletics for the numbers nine, five, eight.
Not unless you rearranged them into the World record figures for the men’s Long Jump - 8.95m – or let yourself think the unthinkable: that a man could run 100 metres in 9.58 seconds. 958 is a bus route, surely? Or a zip code. Or a finishing position in a big city marathon.
Then along came Usain Bolt.
Eighty years after the world first applauded a 9.5 ‘100’ the figures now stand next to the 100m World record, not the 100 yards World record clocked by America’s Eddie Tolan in 1929. Tolan was the first person to run 9.5 for the 100 yards - but then he only had to cover 91.44 metres.
Bolt’s 9.58 for 100 metres here improved the World record by the biggest margin in history and made Tyson Gay’s United States record of 9.71 for silver seem trivial by comparison. As for Asafa Powell’s bronze in 9.84, it was little more than a reminder of an age gone by – of Donovan Bailey’s World record mark to win the Olympic title 13-years-ago.
New sprinting etiquette and diet
As different as Bolt is physically to the bespectacled 5ft 6in Tolan – the Jamaican is 6ft 5in – so has he rewritten the book of sprinting etiquette. It used to be characterised by snarling and sniping between the main protagonists – think back to Carl Lewis versus Ben Johnson or Linford Christie, or to Michael Johnson versus Maurice Greene – but the latest fastest man in history has ushered in a spirit of camaraderie.
But not only is Bolt a gentleman towards his closest rivals – he offered defending champion Tyson Gay a handshake on the warm-up track before the Final and a warm appraisal of his talent afterwards – he is also a stage artist and a challenger to received wisdom.
Take his lunch. Last year on the very same day (16 August) before breaking the 100m World record for the second time with 9.69, Bolt sent a packed medallists’ press conference into howls of laughter when he revealed that he had eaten chicken nuggets for lunch. Despite claims that he had improved his diet, lunch yesterday was no different.
“Asafa said there was no nuggets here but I actually found a McDonalds and I had a lot of nuggets for lunch,” Bolt said without a hint of shame. In fact he seemed rather pleased with himself, chuckling as he added: “So that’s good.”
And the stage artist? With Bolt’s spirit of camaraderie rubbing-off on others, Gay had acknowledged on the eve of the championships that the Jamaican was “very funny and has a lot of personality”. And once again Bolt brought his full personality to the track, playing to the crowd even before he lined up for a race watched by millions in expectation of him breaking the World record. Pressure? What pressure?
Bolt clowned around, putting a silencing finger to his lips when the spectators began to whistle at the disqualification of Britain’s Tyrone Edgar in their semi-final. And, when he was introduced as they lined up for the Final, he adopted his trademark stance of aiming an invisible bow and arrow towards the sky. Gay, by contrast, just waved.
First false start
The Olympic and new World champion even revealed that he had registered the first false start in his semi-final – leading to Edgar’s disqualification for a second false start – because he was messing around.
“That was just me and my team-mate Daniel Bailey…we were really just having fun,” Bolt said. “I was telling him I was going to beat him out the blocks because in training he always beats me out the blocks. I guess I got a little bit too excited and that’s when I false started.”
How does Bolt do it? How does he stay so cool in the heat of the kitchen? “I train all year round to run the 100m, so I know what I’ve got to do so when I go in the blocks,” he explained. “I know what is necessary. I can have all the fun I want before the race but when the starter says ‘on your marks’ I just refocus and then it is time to go.”
Such has been the profile, and legend in the making, of Bolt in the 12 months since Beijing that, had you asked the man on the street to name the World 100m champion, the vast majority would no doubt have answered ‘Bolt’. But this was Bolt’s first World senior title, adding to those he had won over 200m at Youth and Junior level.
Furthermore, Bolt becomes Jamaica’s first men’s 100m World champion and only his country’s second individual outdoor senior men’s gold medallist after Bert Cameron’s 400m win at the first World Championships, in Helsinki, in 1983.
Accident and bad weather
The Bolt-Gay showdown was the most keenly anticipated 100m since the clashes between Johnson and Lewis at the1987 World Championships and 1988 Olympics. They had not raced each other for 15 months, since Bolt broke the World record for the first time with 9.72 in New York.
Gay went into the race with the fastest time of 2009 – 9.77 – but Bolt had first had to get over injury suffered in a car crash in April, when his new BMW M3 skidded off the road and overturned, and then had to suffer unhelpful weather almost everywhere he raced. Furthermore, let us not forget that he is in only his second season as a serious 100m runner. Before 2008 he hadn’t broken 10sec.
“I have been through a lot this season,” the 22-year-old Bolt said. “Early season I started late in training. In the middle of my training I got into a car accident, which took me out for a while, and I have just been up and down.”
I think I have to keep doing it year after year
How big was his step here in developing his legend? “It’s getting there but I don’t think two seasons can do it,” he said. “I think I have to keep doing it year after year. It will take a lot of hard work because these guys are going to be coming next season and the season after that. I’ve worked hard to get there, though.”
Talking through his race, he said: “I got a good start. That was my main aim and then my drive phase overall was good. I got out of my drive phase and I saw I was leading and, when I got to 50, I knew it was going to be hard to get past me because that’s the strongest part of my race.”
Inevitably, Bolt was asked how fast he could go, although he was already on record as saying: ‘I think I could go 9.4 but I think the world stops at 9.4’. Last night he answered: “Anything is possible. I’m just happy I won. For me, 9.5 is definitely a big thing. I’m proud of myself because I’m the first man to have done that. I never go out there thinking about World records. I just go out there trying to win.”
The 200 metres may prove more challenging for Bolt, although Gay cast doubt last night over whether he would defend his title as his nagging groin continues to trouble him. Bolt’s foot injury from his car accident prevented him running the bend in training for several weeks. “So we haven’t had time to work on some of the things we wanted to work on,” Glen Mills, his coach, said.
Is Bolt’s 200m World record of 19.30 also in jeopardy? “I doubt I’m going to get the World Record in the 200,” he said. “I’m going out there to run hard, definitely, but I think it is going to be even more difficult. I haven’t run 200s much all season because I don’t think I was really in 200 shape. I took my time but when it comes to championships I’m always ready.”
Ready to run. Ready to have fun. Ready to make the world gasp and laugh.
David Powell for the IAAF