Sunday, August 17, 2008

World's Fastest Man, Twice

In the most outrageous display of speed to ever burn across the Olympic Games, Usain Bolt of Jamaica rocketed to gold in winning the men's 100m dash in 9.69 seconds -- not only a new world record but the first time in the history of human beings a man has run the distance under 9.7 seconds without a significant tailwind.

Incredibly, Usain "Lightning" Bolt, 21, could have gone faster.

With a full seven strides to go, he dropped his arms and let them fall outstretched to his sides, appearing almost to run sideways as he played to the sold-out crowd of 91,000 at the Bird's Nest. Just before the finish line, he started high-stepping and, for good measure, executed a chest-thump.

Richard Thompson of Trinidad & Tobago finished second, a full two-tenths of a second back, in 9.89. "Usain Bolt is just a great athlete," Thompson said. "He came in here and ran a phenomenal race."

Walter Dix of the United States took third, in 9.91.

Tyson Gay of the United States, who suffered a hamstring strain at the U.S. Olympic Trials in early July, failed to make it out of his semifinal heat.

Gay, the 2007 world champion at both the 100m and 200m, finished fifth of eight in his semifinal earlier Saturday night. Only the top four advance.

"It was kind of devastating," he said.

Gay ran a 9.77-second 100m in the quarterfinals of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon. That's now the American record.

Then, in the Trials finals, Gay ran a wind-aided 9.68. It's not a world record, not even an American record because of the wind. But it is still - even after Saturday night - the fastest time recorded in history.

As for the 21-year-old Bolt -- he was, until this season, a 200m guy.

Including these Olympics, Bolt has run perhaps a dozen competitive 100m sprints in his entire life.

"You have people who are exceptions," said Stephen Francis, the coach of Bolt’s main Jamaican rival, Asafa Powell, the former 100 world-record holder. "You have Einstein. You have Isaac Newton. You have Beethoven. You have Usain Bolt. It’s not explainable how and what they do."

Unstoppable Bolt Breaks Record in 200-Meter, Too

Running hard through the finish, Bolt not only ran 19.30, breaking the world record by two-hundredths of a second less than two hours before his 22nd birthday, but he seemed to set new parameters on what humans can achieve.

The record was 19.32 seconds, set by the American Michael Johnson in his possibility-altering moment at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Until Wednesday, no one other than Johnson had run faster than 19.62. Bolt’s previous best was 19.67.

Bolt became the first person since Carl Lewis in 1984 to win the 100 and the 200 in the same Olympics, and the first to do it while breaking both world records.

Bolt also ran the third leg of Jamaica's 4x100m relay, handing off to Asafa Powell, who brought it home for an easy gold.

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