Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Bolt is first to break records in 100, 200 at same Games
BEIJING -- Usain Bolt kept driving for the finish line, knowing the race was won but there was something even bigger out there.
Not just another world record, but history itself. Not just an unheard-of blowout, but the chance to be called the greatest sprinter ever.
Bolt may have done just that Wednesday night, on his sport's biggest stage.
Usain Bolt ran Wednesday's 200 meter final in 19.30 seconds, breaking Michael Johnson's 12-year-old record of 19.32.
The Jamaican wunderkind hurtled to his second world record and his second Olympic gold medal, finishing the 200-meter race in 19.30 seconds to break Michael Johnson's 12-year-old mark. In doing so he became the first man ever to break the world record in both the 100 and 200 at the same Olympics and the first since Carl Lewis in 1984 to win the sprint double.
That he did it was one thing -- how he did it was even more memorable. He beat Churandy Martina by 0.52 second -- about four body lengths -- the largest margin of victory in an Olympic 200 since the first race in 1900. Martina ended up being disqualified later, however, for running out of his lane.
The last man to hold both world records simultaneously was none other than Donald Quarrie, the 1970s Jamaican star whom Bolt said he always wanted to pattern his running after.
Now Quarrie and everyone else -- Lewis, Jesse Owens, any of the other six men to complete an Olympic 100-200 double -- takes a back seat. Nobody other than Johnson had ever run a 200 in under 19.6 and nobody had broken 9.7 in the 100 before Beijing.
Now Bolt has done both.
He had this one won about halfway through, but unlike his record-setting performance in the 100 four nights before, there was no hot-dogging, no celebrating until he crossed the line. He went hard all the way, looking at the clock down the stretch, leaning at the line, knowing that Johnson's venerable mark was within reach.
When he saw the number come up -- a number that never has before -- he raised his arms, then fell flat to his back, arms and legs outstretched, and basked in the roar of the Bird's Nest crowd.
Wallace Spearmon of the United States finished third but also was disqualified for leaving his lane. He was celebrating along with Bolt -- even picking up his friend -- carrying the American flag around the track for several minutes after the race and was shocked when an official told him of the DQ.
The U.S. team filed a protest after the race, saying Martina had run out of his lane. The protest was accepted, and that meant Shawn Crawford of the U.S., the defending Olympic champion, ended up with the silver medal. Another American, Walter Dix, ended up with the bronze medal despite being the fifth man across the finish line.
Bolt is simply a different kind of runner -- coiled power in his 6-foot-5 frame, supposedly too big for success in the 100, but certainly built to run the 200.
His move out of the starting block isn't nearly as important in the longer race, which makes this more about raw speed. But a good start certainly doesn't hurt. He got one in this race, bursting out of the blocks from Lane 5, overcoming the lag about a quarter of the way through, then beating Martina to the line by four body lengths.
Bolt's 100 record is 9.69 seconds. He averaged 9.65 per 100 meters in the longer sprint, running into a very slight headwind.
"Incredible," Johnson, now the former record-holder, said after the race. "He got an incredible start. Guys of [6-foot-5] should not be able to start like that. It's that long, massive stride. He's eating up so much more track than others. He came in focused, knowing he would likely win the gold and he's got the record."
Bolt won the race on the eve of his 22nd birthday and a version of "Happy Birthday" played over the public-address system as he took off his gold shoes and wrapped the Jamaican flag around his shoulders like a scarf.
He did another hip-swiveling dance, then raised his hands and pointed toward the scoreboard. A little later, he posed near the scoreboard -- the traditional picture that all world record-setters take. Bolt now has three of them -- this, the 100 from Saturday and the picture he took in New York in May when he broke the 100 record the first time.
"You're back there giving it everything you've got -- it's brutal," said Kim Collins, the 2003 world champ who finished seventh. "He's doing it and making it look so simple. Michael Johnson did it, and it didn't looked that easy."
Bolt's victory made Jamaica 3-for-3 in the Olympic sprints, and the women's 200 Thursday will include three Jamaicans with gold-medal potential -- Veronica Campbell-Brown, Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart.
None of them, however, will surpass what Bolt has done at these games. And while Michael Phelps and his eight swimming golds may be The Story of these Olympics, Bolt's sheer dominance in the most basic tests of speed there are will not soon be surpassed -- unless he does it himself.