That was not a lightning bolt you saw on television during the 100-meter dash at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. It was Usain Bolt, Jamaica’s 6-foot-5 answer to sprint dominance worldwide.
Bolt not only ran the 100 meters, he ran the 100 meters faster than any person ever on planet Earth, winning the sprint double (both the 100- and 200-meter dashes) in world record time. He became the first sprinter to break both the 100 and 200 world records at the same Olympics, and the first man to win gold in the sprint double since America’s Carl Lewis did it in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
Bolt did not just win the 100 and 200 dashes, he literally ran away from the field. Bolt ran 9.69 in the 100 to break his own 9.72 world record set two months earlier in June, and came back in the 200 to run 19.30 and break Michael Johnson’s 19.32 world record set 12 years ago in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Then Bolt teamed with Nesta Carter, Michael Frater and Asafa Powell to run 37.10 in the 4×100 relay breaking the 37.40 world record set by an American team in Stuttgart (Germany) in 1993. For Bolt, it was three wins in three races and three world records.
For the world, it was a wake up call proclaiming Jamaica as the most dominate sprint power in the world today.
Bolt’s performance stole the show, but Jamaica’s women were just getting started, going 1-2-3 in the 100. Shelly-Ann Fraser took the gold (in 10.78), Sherone Simpson the silver (10.98) and Kerron Stewart the bronze (10.98). A botched baton exchange cost Jamaica another 4 gold medals in the 4×100 relay.
In the women’s 200, Veronica Campbell-Brown won gold in 21.74 and Kerron Stewart won the bronze (22.00). In the 400, Sherica Williams won the silver medal in 49.69, and Williams teamed with Shereefa Lloyd, Rosemarie Whyte and Novelene Williams to give Jamaica the bronze in the 4×400 relay.
Fortunately, American Florence Griffith-Joyner’s (FloJo) 100 meter 10.49 world record and 10.62 Olympic record still stands, and her 200 meter 21.34 world record and 21.34 Olympic record at the 1988 Seoul Olympics still stands.
Usain Bolt’s post-victory celebration after his 100-meter victory was joyful to say the least. He kneeled and kissed the ground, danced down the track, blew kisses to the fans and generally made a spectacle of himself, much to the dismay of some of his competitors and Olympic officials. More than one person told Bolt to put a lid on it.
His height and God-given speed wrecked havoc on his shorter competitors. Each of his long, graceful strides cover more than 9 feet on the track, while more compact sprinters cover slightly less than 8 feet per stride.
In essence, Bolt’s 6-foot-5 frame has him running a foot longer with every stride. Even if his competitors match him stride for stride, they lose a foot with every single stride Bolt takes. His margin of victory in the 100 and 200 were devastatingly obvious.
Bertland Cameron, Jamaican assistant track coach, said it best, “You won’t see another one like that for another 50 years.” Well, maybe we will. There is already talk that Bolt might run the 100, 200 and 400 at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
The 22-year-old Bolt did not just burst onto the international scene. At 15, he became the youngest 200-meter winner at the World Junior Championships. You might say that he is just now hitting his stride.
Only time will tell if Bolt continues to lower his world records and compete at the 2012 London Olympics, but this much is certain: as of today, when you talk about sprint dominance in the world, you start with Jamaica.
Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley