Bolt from the Blue laughs his way to a world record (Lead)

August 16th, 2008 - 11:41 pm ICT by IANS  

By V. Krishnaswamy
Beijing, Aug 16 (IANS) Call it what you want: Bolt from the Blue. Greased Lightning. Or simply Usain Bolt. Bolt, almost last off the blocks, few from behind to pluck the world record kept for him at the end of the tape to snatch his 22nd birthday present five days too early.

Producing one of the most extraordinary pieces of sprinting in athletics history, Bolt clocked 10.69s and won by a fifth of a second (0.20s) and shaved off three-hundredths of a second off his world record set six weeks ago.

Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago took the silver with a personal best of 9.89 seconds while American Walter Dix finished with a bronze in 9.91 seconds.

Bolt’s was an electric performance, one which sends a chill down your spine; the kind you experience on seeing the unbelievable. You need to keep watching the replay, first in your mind and then on the giant screen and then pinch yourself. And then tell yourself, it indeed happened.

What’s more, he also found enough time to laugh and look around and catch the last few strides of himself on the giant screen and maybe even turn around and wait to receive the second-placed Trinidadian Richard Thompson (10.89s) and bronze medallist American Walter Dix (9.91s).

Fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell ended a distant fifth in 9.95s behind Martina Churandy from the Netherlands Antilles (9.93s). World champion Tyson Gay was eliminated in the semi-finals, as he was fifth.

“I wasn’t bragging. When I saw I wasn’t covered (no one close), I was just happy,” said Bolt on slowing down at the end. “I was always the fastest. I told you all I was going to be No. 1 and I just did that.”

He also felt a 9.65s is possible. “Anything is possible. The human body is changing so you never know. I aim just to win, but when I saw the replay I was amazed.” And so was the rest of the world.

It was probably the most anticipated men’s Olympic men’s 100m final since Seoul in 1988 when Ben Johnson went head-on against Carl Lewis and won by a world record that was not to be as the disgraced Johnson tested positive.

Yes, it was hard not to think about that even as Bolt raced across the tape and stopped the clock at 9.68s, which was later corrected to 9.69s.

In the semi-finals, Bolt with neither Powell nor Gay to push him had won by a tenth of a second. Yet the ease with which he won the semis in 9.85 seconds, more than a stride ahead of American Walter Dix and just one-hundredth of a second outside Donovan Bailey’s 1996 Olympic record, it was clear that the 90,000 crowd was in for a out-of-the-world performance.

Meanwhile, Powell won the second semi-final in 9.91s with Richard Thompson of Trinidad second in 9.93s. But more stunning was the elimination of Gay.

So, the stage was set was an all-Jamaican final between Bolt and Powell with the other six providing the supporting cast.

In near perfect conditions with no wind and a spotless start, Bolt was nothing like his name, losing almost half a stride off the blocks and was the second last to react to the starter’s gun.

Yet in the next 20 strides, he was almost into the front and from there on he ran a lonely race as it were, but he sure was enjoying it.

Bolt, who at one stage had contemplated running only the 200m, is now a strong favourite to go back with three gold medals - with the 200m and the 4 x 100m relay yet to come. The 200m is his forte.

Bolt, if he wins the 200m can become the first man since Carl Lewis in Los Angeles in 1984 to capture am Olympic sprint double. And that could come as early as Wednesday night.

A rusty-looking Gay, who had clocked a wind-assisted 9.68s in the US trials, was disappointed as he said, “I don’t know (what happened). I just didn’t have nothing’ in me today. I ran as fast as I could. I focused on the Olympics so I’m disappointed. I thought I would get into the finals.”

Gay refused to blame his hamstring for the defeat. “The injury was a setback to my training, but that’s no excuse because my hamstring feels fine,” he said. “I feel great, I feel strong, I feel relaxed, it just wasn’t there.”

Though the Powell-Gay rivalry has been around for sometime, Bolt arrived onto the scene only this year. He took to the 100m this season to improve speed for his preferred 200m and he surprised even himself when he knocked off 0.02 seconds of Powell’s world record, running 9.72sec in New York on June 1.

That made the contest a three-cornered one. And tonight, he was way above the other two.

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