Beijing Perspective: Chasing the Lightning Bolt, In Praise of Usain Bolt by Larry Eder


Tom Goldman of National Public Radio asked me, after the 200 meters, what makes Usain Bolt tick? I had answered it in a radio interview that was not able to play, so I thought I would recount my comments to Tom and add a bit more! Usain Bolt is an amazing athlete, a young man who has talent, and with the right coach and right motivation, is now a world beater....

In ten days in August 2008, Jamaican runner Usain Bolt captured the interest of the world. The young man, who turned twenty-two during the Olympic Games broke world records at 100 meters, 200 meters and then ran the third leg of the world record 4 x 100 meters! Three gold medals in ten days, and Usain Bolt is now a household name across the globe!

At the beginning of the Games, there were three sprinters, Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay. All three were relatively healthy and all three were competing in Beijing. It was Usain who took the global stage, and enthralled track fans everywhere. Combining the talents of a man of six foot five, with excellent form, and after a year of hard training with coach Glenn Mills, Usain Bolt was ready to race when he came to Beijing.

In the one hundred meters, Bolt ran 10.20 in round one, heat one, and looked like he was jogging! In round two, heat four, Bot ran 9.92, the fastest of the the day so far, and he was still jogging! The next day, August 16 showed Usain Bolt put the racing up a notch. He ran 9.85 in the semi finals at half past seven in the evening. Bolt was in shape. Tyson Gay was out of the final, and Asafa Powell also made the final.

Three hours later, Usain Bolt came charging out of the blocks and by fifty meters, was in control of the race. At seventy-five meters, he put his arms out and flew through the finish, recording a legal 9.69 seconds! A New World Record! The ninety one thousand fans in the Bird's Nest continued to applaud! Bolt's clear victory in the 100 meters, two tenths of a second, had not been seen since 1964.

After the hundred meters, Bolt told the assembled media, " I will run my heart out in the 200 meters." The Jamaican gold medalist kept his promise. Coming off the turn in the 200 meters, Bolt crushed the 2004 gold medalist Shawn Crawford by six tenths of a second! Usain Bolt, running strong the whole way grimaced and leant at the finish, destroying a world record,set in 1996 by Michael Johnson, that many thought would never be broken. Usain Bolt took his second world record in 19.30, running into a head wind!

Friday night, August 22, the crowd was anticipating the relay final! Ninety thousand plus watched in awe as Nesta Carter handed off to Micheal Frater to who handed off to Usain Bolt, who blasted the second turn to hand off to Asafa Powell, who anchored the Jamaican team to the world record in the 4 x 100 meter relay, in 37.10! The crowd screamed and applauded as Jamaica burnt up the track. Seven of possible twelve individual medals in the 100 meters and 200 meters for Jamaican men and women, plus the mens' 4 x 100 meter gold!

What is it about Usain Bolt? Well, lets put it this way. When Usain was a teenager, he ran a 45.33 in the 400 meters. At the age of eighteen, he won the World Juniors at 200 meters. He was known as a nice guy, but someone who was not ready to work real hard. He liked to have fun with his friends.

It took a come from behind trouncing by Tyson Gay in the Osaka 200 meters to force Usain to open his eyes. After that, he committed to Coach Glenn Mills, and Usain Bolt trained for an entire year. You have seen the results. On May 31, Usain Bolt set a world record at 100 meters of 9.72. On August 16, Usain Bolt set a world record for 100 meters of 9.69. On August 21, Usain Botl set a world record for 200 meters, running 19.30 into a head wind!
And finally, on August 22, running the third leg, Usain Bolt contributed to his team's 4 x 100 meter victory by breaking open the race in the third leg, and being part of a third world record of 37.10 for the relay! Three gold medals, ten races, ten days. Usain Bolt gave Jamaica its' first gold medal in the sprints! Not bad for a hard year of training!

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