Olympics

Olympic Bolt: Witness report of historic 100m

Olympic Bolt: Witness report of historic 100m
Photo by Jonathan Wald (CNN).
Olympics

POSTED: Monday, August 6, 2012 - 12:30pm

UPDATED: Monday, August 6, 2012 - 12:34pm

The 2012 London Olympics has been an awe-inspiring event -- with daily doses of drama, guts and glory -- but its zenith was always going to be the showdown of the gladiators of pace that is the men's 100 meters final.

Of all Olympic disciplines there are none as original, pure and spectacular as this hallowed contest.

Original: Because the first 13 ancient Games consisted only of the "stadion" discipline, the short-distance sprint race that ran the length of the stadium in Olympia.

Pure: Because every person on the planet, barring disability, can relate to running as fast as their legs will carry them; everyone knows in some way their own limits in this capacity and, consequently, respecting the audacity of the world's finest and fastest athletes over the distance is an easy connection to make.

Spectacular: Because there is no moment in the sporting world that has such intensity of drama.

The superhuman nature of its combatants connects with the human psyche in a primal and magnetic way, and has transfixed populations from ancient times to modern.

Thousands of lucky souls in attendance at London's packed-to-the-rafters Olympic Stadium bared witness to the latest chapter of this thousand-year narrative and in Usain Bolt witnessed arguably its greatest character add to his legend. Another two billion were estimated to be watching the feat live on television screens worldwide.

Hindsight would always see the hero prevail, but much was in doubt ahead of the race. True, Bolt was the reigning Olympic champion of 2008, but the 25-year-old's aura of invincibility had taken major blows since he shattered the world record in Berlin in 2009.

Concerns pervaded over Bolt's form and fitness; worries that escalated when he lost to his training partner and rival Yohan Blake in Jamaica's trials barely a month before the Games.

There was a scrutiny associated with Bolt's every move that no other athlete had to contend with either. Relentless interviews followed endless commercial commitments. His actions may still have conveyed a man who was carefree and confident, but this was a young man who was well versed with the energy-sapping rigors of celebrity on a grand scale.

But the task of the champion is to overcome.

The first indications of the marvel that was to happen came in the semifinal heats, where Bolt cruised to victory by covering the yardage in little over 10 seconds and seemingly without breaking from second gear.

There was a nonchalant swagger to the way qualification was assured.

Ahead of the final itself there was no one cooler than the 1.96 meter tall Jamaican. While 80,000 people collectively fidgeted, fretted and fussed in anticipation of the main event, Bolt remained immune to the pressure.

He jested as the myriad of TV cameras honed on his expressions, gesticulating how fast he would run with two rapidly moving index and middle fingers. He shrugged and he smiled.

The runners were called to their marks, forming a line of the fleet-footed finest. Many champions in their own right: Gay, Gatlin and Ryan from America; Blake, Powell and Thompson from the Caribbean.

Then silence. The pilgrims of the London coliseum were called on to endure a claustrophobic wait by large video screens that said: "Quiet please."

"Set! ..."

A lone helicopter broke the noiseless air, hovering miles in the distance. Collective breath was held.

BANG!! Eight heads rose in a line on the track as a wave of sound and flash photography exploded around the stadium before crashing on to the most scrutinized piece of land on the planet like a tsunami.

Bolt's reaction time was typically slow, with Gatlin, Blake and Gay faster out of the blocks, but the legs in lane seven were starting to drive.

At 20 meters the head was up and the long stride was reeling in the lost ground; by 50, Bolt had drawn level, arms now pumping like pistons, torso bucking in time.

The heat was on. The line of sprinters in alternate lanes of red and yellow (USA in red, Jamaica in yellow) squeezed every sinew to keep up with the new pacemaker.

Bolt relaxed, elongated his stride and left the rest in his wake.

When he crossed the line after 9.63 seconds he was a good meter ahead of the field. The time -- the second fastest in history -- was a new Olympic record and Bolt had achieved what only Carl Lewis had before: to have won gold medals twice in the event.

He had beaten three other athletes who ran under 9.8 seconds (9.85 was the world record up until 2008), making it the fastest 100m podium of all time.

Usain Bolt: The man whose name sounds preordained by the Gods, a real-life superman, the greatest sprint showman that ever lived, the world-record holder and the newly crowned double Olympic champion.

The king still reigns, and he'll be running the 200m in a few days time...

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