Praising Jamaican sounds like hyperbole… it’s not, it’s Hyper Bolt
IF THAT’S running tired, keep me awake for weeks. 19.19 seconds? 19.19 seconds? Usain Bolt has created a new art for m: Scoreboards We Thought We’d Never See.
Available in a series of four, limited-edition prints, each adorned with the artist’s unique archer’s motif. Value: Golden.
Has there ever been a sequence of runs like this? Like most things Usain, never before.
Four major finals, four gold medals, four astonishing world records. An amazing 9.69 seconds in the Olympic 100m, 19.30sec in the 200m just days later, 9.58sec in the 100m last Sunday followed by 19.19sec on Thursday. You want to include the relay? Then make that five, with a sixth maybe to follow today.
It’s a track record without parallel, in both senses of the phrase.
Ever since he came out at the start of last year with a golden glimmer in his eye and a magical spring in his step, Bolt has redefined the boundaries of what was believed to be humanly possible. It sounds like hyperbole, but it’s not. It’s just Hyper Bolt.
We should be used to it by now, but each fresh wonder is as staggering as the last. The best 200m judge around, Michael Johnson, was convinced Bolt wouldn’t break the record on Thursday night. So was Bolt himself.
“I didn’t expect it,” he panted afterwards. “I was a little bit tired, but I thought, well heck, let’s try.”
For once, Bolt did look like he was trying. There was the usual horse-play beforehand – the T-shirt with the words ‘Ich bin ein Berlino’ scrawled on it, the slow-motion comedy haymaker aimed at rival Wallace Spearmon as they warmed up, the conducting of the crowd to first quieten down and then roar – but from the gun he went hard, hard, hard.
Within 15 strides he had overtaken the sprinters in all three lanes outside him. Within 30 you knew the record was on.
Arms pumping, teeth gritted, face grimacing. The race numbers stuck to his thighs took flight and were left behind. For quite a while they were in second place.
As he came into the last 50 metres he glanced right, and then right again. Quite who he expected to see there was not quite clear – a motorcycle outrider? A traffic cop waving a speed gun?
On and on, a dip on the line, and then a stare at the scoreboard. We know the routine by now – scream him through the tape and then focus on those yellow numbers on the electronic screen standing just inside the infield eight metres past the finish.
It still doesn’t prepare you for the shock of what you see. The incredulity doesn’t end. You look at the wind gauge – headwind. You skim the results sheet – five men under 20 seconds for the first time in history, none of them within distant metres of the winner, Shawn Crawford running 19.89secs and finishing outside the medals.
“I was trying, I was dying, my form was going backwards.” This is the sort of quote you expect to hear from someone who has just gone out in the first-round heats. You don’t expect to hear it from a man who has just knocked over a 10th of a second off a sprint world record for the second time in four days.
“That,” said Johnson emphatically, “was a ridiculous race. That bend was unbelievable. No-one has ever run a bend like that and probably never will. The person who might break these records has not been born yet.”
Up in the stands, Bolt’s family waved their Jamaican flags with glorious glee. They hadn’t all been there in Beijing, but they weren’t going to watch this one from back home in Trelawny. Mum Jennifer dabbed her eyes, brother Sadiki high-fived, dad Wellesley gave it an all-teeth beamer.
Wellesley had been asked earlier what his own sprinting pedigree was like. “I used to do the 200m and 400m at primary school,” he said with delightful understatement, “but I was never as good as him.”
It was a night to remember in the Olympiastadion. Bolt was, of course, the major reason, but there was so much more. In a purple patch of around 30 minutes, we saw the greatest 200m in history, a fantastic women’s 400m hurdles final, a 110m hurdles final where the first three men were separated by less than a hundredth of a second and a high jump competition that brought a capacity crowd of 75,000 people to complete silence and then ear-splitting celebration.
“Thunderbolt Thursday”, some dubbed it. Others called it “Thrilling Thursday” or “Thank Flip It’s Thursday”.
Yesterday, Usain Bolt celebrated his 23rd birthday. He probably broke the world record for the most candles blown out in history, or took the biggest slice off the existing cake than anyone’s ever seen.
Wonder if there was anyone quick enough to gatecrash the party?
TIME ON HIS HANDS: Usain Bolt leaves a class field for dead as he annihilates his own 200m world record in Berlin this week