Usain Bolt, Beijing 2008, photo by PhotoRun.net
Usain Bolt got an okay start on Sunday night in London. He then, caught the crowded field, assembled as the fastest men alive, all taking on Usain Bolt. At seventy meters, with strong effort, Usain Bolt grimaced and galloped by, setting a new Olympic record of 9.63 for the 100 meters and joining only Archie Hahn and Carl Lewis as male sprinters who have defended their 100 meter titles.
Usain Bolt, as I shared with BBC TV last night, and BBC Newsday radio this morning, was probably ninety percent.
80,000 fans worshipped the man as he won the perhaps the greatest 100 meters of all times. But, perhaps, Bolt is human.
Elliott Denman, our fearless writer sure thinks so, in this column.
Perhaps in his human frailty, the world will even love the Jamaican gold medalist even
Yohan Blake, photo by PhotoRun.net
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
LONDON – Usain Bolt, alias Superman, face it, you’re slowing up.
It’s perfectly clear, clear that life in your sport’s fastest lane
is taking its toll.
Hate to say this, Supe, Mr. B, but you’re not what you used to be.
Sunday night, for instance.
On the Olympic Stadium track called “definitely one of the fastest I’ve ever run on,”
by virtually every athlete on the premises, the best 100 meters that you, the Jamaican
jet, could manage to give us was 9.63 seconds.
Oh, you “Bolt From The Blue,” you did eclipse your own Olympic record set in
Beijing four years ago, that 9.69, but you couldn’t
even approach your own world record, the 9.58 you delivered at the 2009 Berlin
Usain, you bird, you plane, you Superman of Sprinting, you man of
sky-high expectations, your 9.63 was just not good enough.
Wonder was that you weren’t even booed.
Mr. B, Supe, it’s simple as this, you need to give us something never before seen
or done, every time out. It goes with your other-worldly territory.
We, the track fans of the universe, are a greedy bunch.
We pay very big bucks/pounds/Euros to see you do all this.
We can no longer be happy with your pedestrian performances.
We expect world records from you every time out.
Tyson Gay, photo by PhotoRun.net
Not just routine records, a nibble of a 100th here, a nibble of another 100th there.
We’ve come to expect you to give us new records set by huge globs of time.
You took us from the 9.7s era to the 9.6s, to the 9.58 in Berlin.
Well and good, but that’s history, that’s old stuff.
What have you done for us lately?
This is the early phase of the eighth month of the year 2012.
We ask, we demand, that you take us on some really wild rides,
in the very immediate future.
One-hundred-meters-wise, isn’t it time you brought us into the 9.4s,
the 9.3s, the 9.2s ?
We ask you, a man who lives by the clock, why the heck all this hesitation?
Two-hundred-meters-wise, starting tomorrow and into Wednesday, we demand you
take us into the 18s.
Justin Gatlin, photo by PhotoRun.net
You have already revolutionized our sport, turned it upside down and inside out.
You’ve also put our whole sport back on the map.
You’ve actually given all of track and field/ alias athletics the “name” athlete
it needs to regain its mainstream status, the status needed to challenge
all the ballgames (base, foot, basket) that totally hog up available space and airtime.
Nevertheless, you, Mr. B, you Superman, you are overdue.
We pay heavy poundage here in London to see you do your multiple things.
We listen to your banter, we check out your famous pre-race and post-race
rituals, your strange gesticulations, your skyward glances, your hair combings,
your trademark “lightning bolt” maneuverings.
Mostly, we love all this stuff you do.
It’s only the fuddy-duddies who don’t.
Even your rivals, foreign and domestic, appreciate it all – obviously on the old
“what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” theory.
You’ve just won the heavyweight championship of footracing, and the
men you left in your slipstream were last seen genuflecting in your direction.
Superman, you admitted to a case of pre-race jitters. But you did not have to
duck into a telephone booth – yes there
are a few of them left in this enlightened land – to regain your poise.
The happy sight of 80,000 checking
every one of your moves calmed your nerves.
Likely, those jitters were a year in the making.
That infamous false start/DQ thing at Daegu in 2011 can do that,
even to Superman.
You slipped somewhat in your blocks Sunday night, but your start wasn’t the worst
in the seven-man, one-Superman field, either.
Netherlands’ Churandy Martina was quickest to react – but still wound up
sixth in 9.94.
Next quickest was USA’s Tyson Gay – who used it to place fourth in 9.80.
With all the final placings sorted out, the homage-dispensers lined up,
“Usain Bolt, he’s the fastest man in the world,” conceded fellow Jamaican
Yohan Blake (running a PR-equaling 9.75.)
“To be the second fastest man behind Bolt is an honor.”
“Watching Usain Bolt, what he has done, he gives me my own inspiration to
be a better runner,” said USA’s Justin
Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic champion, third in his best-ever 9.79.
“I’m Just glad to have this moment, to be back on the podium once again,
after eight years.”
Yes indeed, back on the podium after four years in (still-argued) drug-suspension exile.
“I have no excuses, I gave my all,” said Gay, fourth in 9.80.
“Everyone came together and made me the best I can be.”
So that left only Superman as the only one in
eight not the best he can be.
“The crowd, it was wonderful,” you said. “I knew it was going to be like this.”
Nevertheless, restiveness ruled.
Superman hadn’t broken the world record, hadn’t come close, hadn’t been
close since 2009.
Fans of the world, their g
lass was officially half-empty.
Mr. B, your 9.58 world record is all of three years old and aging before our very eyes.
Pass the Kryptonite, please, to this gentleman.
We saw it all Sunday night.
Superman’s in trouble.
Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, Rome DL, 2011, photo by PhotoRun.net