Curtis Mitchell: Dreaming Big
by Elliott Denman
MOSCOW – Usain Bolt may be the 100/200 double dashing champion of the World Championships – for the second time in three Worlds; he may be his sport’s face to the world; he may be the advertising messageman of Puma, et al; he may be his sport’s only zillionaire.
He may be a whole lot more than that, too, but to Curtis Mitchell, “Usain Bolt is just one of the guys.”
All that primping, all that gesticulating, all that stuff before he settles into the starting blocks?
All those skyward glances as he prepares to answer the starter’s electronic blast of metallic sound?
All those celebrated lightning-bolt poses once he’s won again?
“Oh, that’s just Usain being Usain,” Curtis Mitchell tells you.
He should know all this stuff – from up-close-and-personal recent observation.
When Bolt crossed the line in 20.66 seconds Saturday night, Mitchell was a dramatic eyewitness, just one lane (Bolt ran in four,
Mitchell in three) apart, a mere 38 hundredths of a second away.
Mitchell was overjoyed with his 20.04 run for the bronze medal (Warren Weir of Jamaica took the silver in 19.79.)
Bolt seemed to revert to a semi-jog for the final 20 meters of his 19.66.
Before Bolt, who will celebrate his 27th birthday on Wednesday, truly came of age in this sport, he was actually beaten by
USA’s Tyson Gay in the Worlds 200-meter final in Osaka in 2007, 19.76 to 19.91.
Of course, there has been no beating of Bolt in a “major” – Worlds or Olympics, 100 or 200 – ever since. Or even anyone getting close.
Except that one notable self-inflicted loss in Daegu in 2011 – when shock of all shocks, he false-started himself out of the 100 final.
The world records he set at the Berlin Worlds of 2009 – 9.58 and 19.19 – seem out-of-this-worldly to the rest of the track and field
universe and maybe even to Bolt himself anytime in the future.
But that’s on the track. The real world rarely gets to see the Bolt his contemporaries see.
“Usain Bolt just knowing who I am is unbelievable,” said Mitchell, a Floridian out of Texas A&M.
“We trained together in London, and he’s just a great guy, man.
“We were just joking around, laughing and having fun.
“He’s just a normal guy like us.
“He’s a superb talent and he shows respect to all the young guys coming up, young guys like me.
“And you can’t ever ask for more than that.”
Even another episode of self-inflicted damage couldn’t keep Bolt away from his wild rush to the podium in the Russian capital.
He’d somehow managed to drop a starting block on his foot the other day, before the 200 prelims,
Some feared the worst. Bolt feared the least. After some quick treatment and a tape job, he was good as new.
What’s it going take for any athlete to ever think of beating Bolt, let alone carrying out the deed?
“Hard work and dedication; you’ve just got to believe in yourself,” said Mitchell.
“The gap is closing, we’re working hard, and that’s all you can do really.
“You don’t, consciously, think about beating Usain Bolt.
“You just worry about being the best you can be.
“Wherever you line up, that’s where you’re at and you make best of it.”
Mitchell couldn’t even make it into the USA 2012 Olympic Trials. Slowed by injuries, he never did post a qualifying time for
So he bided his time, rehabbed completely, and now occupies a place of eminence in track and field.
He lowered his 200 personal record beating Weir in the semis, 19.97 to 20.20.
But even a sub-20 200 meters is no real guarantee of much these speed-saturated days.
At least 50 other Americans – topped by Michael Johnson’s 19.32 at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games have broken 20 seconds over the years.
So, as Curtis Mitchell well knows, there’s always a traffic jam at the top.
Since Gay did it in 2007, a parade of American sprinters has come to the World Championships to challenge Bolt and has gone home in frustration.
Justin Gatlin actually led Bolt for the first 70 meters of the 100 here in Moscow before Bolt charged past, and that’s about the closest call any of them have had.
Darvis “Doc” Patton, Walter Dix, Shawn Crawford, Charles Clark and Wallace Spearmon gave it their best shots. But there was no way it was going to happen.
But that’s not going to stop a young fella like Curtis Mitchell, latest in the line of great American candidates, from trying, either.
He knows that Usain Bolt is “just one of the guys.” He’s seen “The Lightning Bolt” actually lace ’em up, one spiked shoe after another, just like everybody else. And he can’t help dreaming big, either,