Showman Bolt fastest in world again

Showman Bolt fastest in world again

It was the breeziest collective 100-metre race in history with 7 of the 8 finalists running under 10 secs .

He was the fastest man to hit the track in Beijing. Four years later, still no one can catch Usain Bolt. He is still No. 1, still the Olympic champion at 100 metres, still the fastest man alive, still history’s greatest sprinter, still unmatched in his stirring ability to rise to the moment.

Having completed his work Sunday night in 9.63 seconds, an Olympic record, the second-fastest time ever run, Bolt put on a celebratory show for the 80,000 people in the stadium and the millions more watching from afar.

His performance, after all, had happened just hours before Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence from Britain, a combination of events that gave rise to celebrations from Brixton to Kingston.

“My boy!” shouted Ingrid Burton as she watched Bolt run Sunday night on TV at the Perfection Ventures hair salon in Brixton, the Jamaican enclave in south London, about nine miles from the Olympic Stadium.

In victory, Bolt wore the Jamaican flag around his shoulders like a superhero’s cape. He did a somersault. He did his famous archer’s pantomime and bathed in the adulation and camera flashes of the crowd, roaring in approval after it had been hushed only moments before at the start.

“It was wonderful,” Bolt, 25, said. “I knew it was going to be like this. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind.”

It was the fastest collective 100-metre race in history with seven of the eight finalists running under 10 seconds. And four years after Bolt won gold at the Beijing Games, he again crossed the finish line with everyone else looking at his back. He has promised that these Games would again be his stage, and so far he has brought down the house. “It means one step closer to becoming a legend,” Bolt said.

He became the first man to defend his Olympic 100 title in competition on the track. Carl Lewis won at the 1984 Los Angeles Games and finished second at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, then was awarded gold after the Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson tested positive for steroids.

Later this week, Bolt will attempt to become the first sprinter to win the 100 and 200 in successive Olympics. He has four career gold medals and could leave London with six should Jamaica prevail again in the 4x100 relay. Just as important, he has extended his status as the face of a sport that has struggled for attention and validity in the wake of repeated doping scandals.

Despite all these superlatives, Bolt’s victory Sunday was as surprising to some as it was resounding. After the Beijing Games, where he set world records in the 100 (9.69 seconds) and 200 (19.30), he lowered his marks even further in 2009 to 9.58 and 19.19. But the last two years have left Bolt seeming vulnerable from back problems, mechanical problems with the start of his race and questions about his party-loving personality and sustained resolve.

In Sunday’s final, Bolt’s countryman and training partner Yohan Blake, 22, had been considered the favourite by some experts. Blake won the 2011 world championship while Bolt was disqualified for a false start.

Blake also beat Bolt in both sprints at the recent Jamaican Olympic trials, running him down from behind in the 200, something few thought was possible. “It gave me a wake-up call,” Bolt said. “I’m grateful for that.”
Entering Sunday’s final, Blake had run the fastest 100 in the world this year. He matched that time on Sunday, 9.75 seconds, equaling the fastest race he had ever run. Still, he had to settle for the silver medal.

Bolt had nicknamed Blake ‘the Beast’ for his indefatigable training. But it is one thing to train ravenously and another to perform in an Olympic final, when nerves and technique must match speed.

“He works harder than me, but I knew what I needed to do and I have great talent,” Bolt said of Blake. “He will do better next time because he was a little stressed this time.”
The bronze medal on Sunday went to Justin Gatlin of the United States, who ran 9.79, a personal best. Gatlin won the 100 at the 2004 Athens Games, but the legitimacy of his achievement was later compromised by a four-year suspension in 2006 for testing positive for steroids.

Renewed suspicion

He has denied knowingly taking banned substances, claiming that he was sabotaged by a massage therapist who rubbed an illicit cream into his legs. At 30, Gatlin is faster than ever. Track fans will continue to debate whether that is cause for celebration and redemption or renewed suspicion. “It just feels good to be back,” Gatlin said.

On Sunday night, Gatlin appeared to be ahead at about 40 metres. Bolt, who is 6 feet 5 inches and seems to unfurl out of the blocks, said he slipped a bit at the start and grew concerned for a moment.

Some experts have said Bolt appeared to rise at too sharp an angle in recent races, reducing the power of his early drive down the track. But Bolt’s coach had told him to stop worrying so much about the start and to concentrate on the finish with his long, elegant, churning strides.

Four sprinters reacted more quickly to the starter’s gun Sunday, but Bolt did not rush himself. Someone threw a beer bottle onto the track in his lane, behind the starting blocks. Bolt said later he did not notice. He stayed relaxed and seemed to gain the lead between 50 and 60 metres, accelerating to peak speed and then losing less of his velocity than the others chasing him.

Bolt crossed the line with 12-hundredths of a second of daylight, a considerable amount when a much thinner sliver of time often makes the difference between first and second.
“When I got to 50 metres, I knew I was going to do well after that,” Bolt said. “So I just ran. It means a lot. A lot of people doubted me. I wanted to show the world I’m still No. 1, still the best.”

As Bolt approached the finish, his own job done with such remarkable quickness, he thought about celebrating over the final metres as he had done in Beijing, then decided against it. “Nah,” he told himself. “Just run through the line.”

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