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"Thunder" Bolt – "Lightning" Usain Strikes Twice...Sets New Olympic 100m Record
posted on Thursday, 8th December 2016 - [ 1356 views ]
The Lightning Bolt has struck twice. Not since Carl Lewis in 1988 had a sprinter defended his Olympic 100m title and Lewis needed Ben Johnson to be disgraced before he could claim gold again.

Sensing the expansive spirit of these London Games, Bolt laid down his claim to be the greatest speedster of all time.

Usain Bolt crosses the finish line in the men’s 100m final, ahead of countryman Yohan Blake and American Justin Gatlin. Bolt successfully defended his Olympic title with a time of 9.63 seconds.

Usain Bolt became only the second man in Olympic history to take a second gold medal in the men's 100m final on Sunday night, blasting to victory in 9.63, knocking five hundredths of a second off the mark he set in Beijing four years ago as he beat Yohan Blake, his fellow Jamaican and training partner, in a race in which the first seven runners went under 10 seconds. The bronze medal was taken by Justin Gatlin, the champion of 2004.

Thanks to Jessica Ennis, Bradley Wiggins and one or two local favourites, Bolt may never become the face of London 2012 in the way that he dominated memories of Beijing. But there was still a sense, as there always is with the final of the men's 100 metres, that this was the focal point of the 2012 Olympic Games, the moment most likely to produce a feat of superhuman dimensions.

As the eight runners stepped into their blocks, the Olympic stadium seethed with a combination of tension and glee.

Four years ago, when he burst into the global consciousness, Bolt loped his way to a world record time of 9.69, which many believed could have been a tenth of a second faster had he not spent the last 20 metres looking for the faces of his friends in the crowd. In Berlin a year later he took the record down to an all but unbelievable 9.58, and that time he was trying. He was trying on Sunday night too, too, and although he prefaced his run with his customary repertoire of cartoon-hero gestures, there was no messing about once the gun had gone off.

In repeating his success, Bolt emulated Carl Lewis, who won in Los Angeles in 1984 and was then promoted to victory four years later in Seoul after Ben Johnson was disqualified for a positive drugs test.

Beijing was a conquest. This was an exercise in relief. Even Bolt could not have been sure that his body would deliver him for his traditional mid-race surge. His starts are seldom impressive. His mid-track recoveries are almost always ominous. And the lengthening of his stride over the last 20 metres is unanswerable. Afterwards he drew his imaginary bow back and fired at the London sky. “Usain, Usain,” the crowd chanted. The pleasures never cease in this Stratford stadium.

Sent off by 61-year-old Alan Bell from County Durham, who also fired the gun when Bolt false-started at the 2011 Daegu World Championships, the Americans Gatlin, Tyson Gay and Ryan Bailey squared up to a trio of Jamaicans: Bolt, Blake and Asafa Powell. The rest of the world was meagrely represented by Holland’s Churandy Martina and Richard Thompson from Trinidad and Tobago.

Jamaica had already won the women’s 100m with Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the first to retain the Olympic title since Gail Devers in 1992 and 1996. Goaded by American sprint legends in the build-up, Bolt and Blake were both a Jamaican team and mortal rivals, fighting for supremacy in an event still clouded by the outrages of the past.

The resurgent Gatlin was a monument to those times. He returned from his four-year suspension in northern Estonia, in Aug 2010, saying: "Good, bad, indifferent, guilty or not, I have served my time. I just want to come back and be able to run and compete like anybody else. It is in my heart. This is what I do. I feel I owe it to my fans and friends to show them I can still do it. But it is almost half a decade since I ran.

"Denial, anger, sadness, a little bit of depression, embarrassment set in but now I am coming to a point where I am more calm, more mellow."

Gatlin was the Olympic and world champion and broke the world 100m record (running 9.76secs) before testing positive for testosterone. A two-year ban in 2001 for amphetamines was overturned when he successfully blamed it on medication to treat attention deficit disorder.

A veteran of the contrition industry, Gatlin could claim few supporters in this auditorium.

With blockbusting stories everywhere, London 2012 no longer looked to Bolt to be the headline act of these Games. His Beijing blast carried him through the next three years after China’s Olympics but the script has changed.

‘Superman is coming’ was London’s message to the ticket-buying public, some of whom handed over £700 for a seat. In the preceding months it changed to: ‘Superman is vulnerable.’ Curiosity took over from outright worship.

Yet the closer the race came, the more newcomers to Olympic sprinting could comprehend the power, the controlled violence of straight-line running over the minimum distance. World’s fastest man remains one of humanity’s most cherished titles. Camera flashes sparkled around the stadium as the runners exerted psychological pressure on one another on the blocks.

Olympic sprint titles are not generally won by athletes with interrupted preparations. Bolt was out-run by Blake in both the 100m and 200m Jamaican trials. Within days he was visiting Dr Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt in Munich, to address possibly back-related hamstring trouble. He ran badly in Ostrava and talked of needing to sleep more before withdrawing from Monaco to concentrate on London. Fine-tuning was completed away from public scrutiny and he slept in a special 7ft bed. Long-lens snaps of him stretching or wincing after training added to the drama, real or imagined.

In the semi-finals, Gatlin, 30, affirmed the speed of this London track, winning in 9.82secs, with Jamaica’s Powell only third. Then came Bolt, this time with a smile instead of the twitchiness of his first-round run. The defending champion flicked his fingers to denote a scamper and shadow-boxed like a prize-fighter heading into the ring.

His long, sometimes cumbersome rise from the blocks produced a modest start, again, before, the rest of the field seemed to lose propulsion in mid-race. An optical illusion. Bolt was only sliding up a gear. After the brief surge came the post-destruction jog to the line. The time: 9.87secs.

Then the light shifted to Blake, christened ‘The Beast’ by Bolt, who shared a heat with Gay and Britain’s promising Adam Gemili, whose running style is so neat and rhythmic. Blake beat Bolt’s time by two-hundredths of a second, with Gatlin the fastest finalist at 9.82secs.

Gay was the second fastest man in history. Blake was the youngest world champion ever. Gatlin had been here before and conquered the stress of Olympic finals. Bolt held three Olympic medals as he messed about on the start line. Bailey is a rising star in America. Martina is the European champion. What more could anyone want?

A Bolt victory, is the answer. And they got it. They saw the phenomenon put Blake in his place and stop the Gatlin resurgence. They saw the Beijing reign extended from east to west. America still has no answer to his speed. Carl Lewis, who was so grudging in his praise, has lost his place in history, where Bolt now reigns supreme.


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