Bolt shatters 100-meter world record
August 16, 2009
BERLIN – Usain Bolt crossed the finish line, saw his record-setting time on the clock and spread his arms as if he were soaring like a bird.
About all this guy can’t do is fly. And by saving his celebration until after the finish line this time, he showed how fast a man really can go on two feet.
The Jamaican shattered the world record again Sunday, running 100 meters in 9.58 seconds at the world championships to turn his much-anticipated race against Tyson Gay into a one-man show.
That was 0.11 seconds faster than the mark he set last year at the Beijing Olympics – the biggest improvement in the 100-meter record since electronic timing began in 1968.
Gay, his closest rival, broke the American mark with his 9.71 performance and still looked like he was jogging – finishing a few big strides behind Bolt in second place.
Bolt’s only competition these days is the clock.
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And when he’s really trying, not hot-dogging it over the line the way he did in China, even time itself doesn’t stand a chance.
“I don’t run for world records,” said Bolt, who crossed the line with a slight breeze at his back.
Yet those records always seem to find him.
He thinks he can go even lower.
“I know I said 9.4,” Bolt said, grinning. “You never know. I’ll just keep on working.”
Last summer at Beijing, Bolt shut his race down early, waving his arms and celebrating about 10 meters before he got to the line. Some, like Jacques Rogge of the International Olympic Committee, viewed it as a sign of bad sportsmanship. Most saw it as a welcome sigh of relief for a sport that needed some good news after years of doping and scandal.
Even this week, the Jamaican track team was making headlines for the wrong reasons – a complicated doping case. Then a group of athletes who were uninvited to the worlds by the country’s track officials because they didn’t participate in team training camp got reinvited at the request of international officials.
Bolt made everyone forget about that and showed, once again, what a great sport track can be when the focus is on the track, not doping control and the meeting rooms.
Bolt ran his latest unforgettable race at Olympic Stadium in Berlin, the history-filled home of the 1936 Olympics where Jesse Owens became the world’s biggest track star. Bolt lives in Owens’ stratosphere now, having set the 100 world record three times and also owning the 200-meter record thanks to the 19.30 he ran in Beijing to break Michael Johnson’s 12-year-old mark.
Now he has added the world championship, last won by Gay in 2007, to his Olympic title.
A Stanford professor estimated he could’ve gone 9.55 if he’d run full out through the line in Beijing. Bolt almost made that guy look like a genius.
“He’s like a created game person,” American Darvis Patton said. “I can’t imagine going 9.71 and not winning. That will win every race in history except for today (and at the Olympics).”
It’s easy to see why Bolt is such a crowd favorite. He’s a colorful character who loves to entertain. The track is his stage and he didn’t disappoint Sunday.
Before climbing into the blocks, Bolt gave spectators a quick wave and did his trademark bow-and-arrow pose.
That drew big applause.
Then the real show started.
Unlike the Olympics, when he skidded from the blocks, Bolt burst out this time in his yam-colored Pumas, opening a sizable lead on the field after 20 meters.
From there, it could have been a stroll in the park. But there was no letting up this time. Before crossing the line, he glanced to his right to check on Gay once – not in the picture – and then back at the clock. His face lit up as he spotted the digits “9.58” appear on the screen next to the track.
The party was on. He grabbed a flag and did a victory lap with countryman Asafa Powell, who finished with the bronze (9.84).
They even stopped midway down the track and did a little dance number. Too bad the song wasn’t from rapper Akon, who wrote about the sprinter in a song, the lyric going, “Quicker than Usain Bolt, the fastest thing runnin’.”
Next came pictures – lots of flashes popping – and hugs as Bolt greeted everyone who called his name – and they were numerous. The entire victory lap took about 20 minutes.
Or about 19:50.42 longer than it took to run his 100.
Standing back at the finish line, waiting for him to finish up, was Gay. He paced around, clearly agitated.
Not in anger at losing, though.
No, he wanted off the track, but wasn’t allowed by an official. Gay was quite complimentary of his rival in a race that lived up to the hype.
“I’ve been telling you someone could run 9.5,” Gay said. “I’m happy he did it, it showed a human can take it to another level. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the one to do it, but I still have confidence I can do it one day.”
Gay didn’t have much of a chance. Not against Bolt. And certainly not with a groin injury that he admitted to Saturday. He said it was worse than he let on, but refused to use it as a convenient excuse.
“I showed a lot of heart,” Gay said. “I put it together the best I could.”
Powell was right beside Bolt his entire journey around the track, then through the mixed zone.
For Powell, Bolt is a blessing. It takes all the pressure off his shoulders. He doesn’t have to carry the weight of a country by himself.
“He really knows how to perform under pressure,” Powell said. “I need to take a page out of his book.”
That might not be a bad idea for all the sprinters. British sprinter Dwain Chambers, who tested positive for the steroid THG in 2003 and served a two-year suspension, got to see Bolt’s spectacle from the back of the field.
It was rather enjoyable.
“As you get older, you start to realize when you’re put into these situations that you can’t be upset,” said Chambers, who wound up sixth. “You can’t put that into words. Many guys said to me that it’s demoralizing to be apart of a world-record race. For me, it was exciting.”
100 Meter Record Progression
9.58 seconds, Usain Bolt, Jamaica, Aug. 16, 2009
9.69, Bolt, Aug. 16, 2008
9.72, Bolt, May 31, 2008
9.74, Asafa Powell, Jamaica, Sept. 9, 2007
9.77, Powell, Aug. 18, 2006
9.77, Powell, June 11, 2006
9.77, Justin Gatlin, United States, May 12, 2006
9.77, Asafa Powell, Jamaica, June 14, 2005
9.79, Maurice Greene, United States, June 16, 1999
9.84, Donovan Bailey, Canada, July 27, 1996
9.85, Leroy Burrell, United States, July 6, 1994
9.86, Carl Lewis, United States, August 25, 1991
9.90, Burrell, June 14, 1991
9.92, Lewis, Sept. 24, 1988
9.93, Calvin Smith, United States, July 3, 1983
9.95 (electronic), Jim Hines, United States, Oct. 14, 1968
9.99, Hines, June 20, 1968
10.0, Armin Hary, West Germany, June 21, 1960
10.1, Willie Williams, United States, Aug. 3, 1956
10.2, Jesse Owens, United States, June 20, 1936
10.3, Percy Williams, Canada, Aug. 9, 1930
10.4, Charles Paddock, United States, April 23, 1921
10.6, Donald Lippincott, United States, July 6, 1912