Bolt sprints to historic 200m Olympic victoryAugust 10, 2012, 9:57 pm
by Ian Chadband
Now there are no arguments. Now it is up there written in huge gold lettering, the eulogy that he has coveted for so long. Usain Bolt can at last satisfy himself that he really is a ‘living legend’, the only man to successfully defend both the 100 metres and 200m titles in the same Olympic Games.
"I’m the greatest athlete to live. I’ve got nothing left to prove," boomed Bolt, and it just felt hard to argue, after he had put the seal on another bewitching night in the Olympic Stadium with a triumph in the half-lap event which once again made the extraordinary seem almost workaday.
An hour after Kenyan David Rudisha had staked his own formidable claim to being the world’s finest runner by improving his world 800m record to 1min 40.91sec, Bolt could not respond with another global landmark but his victory in 19.32sec felt quite as historic.
No, he did not break the world mark of 19.19 he had set on a balmy night in Berlin three years ago, so Rudisha’s may well be seen as the signature performance of the Olympic Games, yet why are we quibbling here? For this was the night that Bolt proved himself the greatest sprinter in the history of the sport.
He knew it, his rivals recognised it and 80,000 who had witnessed an hour of breathtaking sport of a quality that Britain has rarely had the privilege to behold were enthralled by it. For though Bolt may have switched off a little at the finish, wary of his dodgy back and in the knowledge that he still has a third title to defend in the sprint relay tomorrow, he was still supersonic, still fantastic, still a man apart.
First, he played the destroyer, forcing young pretender Yohan Blake to settle for silver again, just as he had in the 100m; then he was the avenger, putting finger to lip because he wanted to tell any doubters left out there that he had nothing to declare but his genius.
Next up, he was the comedian, with his post-victory press ups and camera-nicking to take snaps of the snappers. And to finish, he did his national statesman bit with Blake and bronze medallist Warren Weir, parading the black, green and gold flag, as Jamaica celebrated its first-ever clean sweep of medals, in any event.
That is Bolt. When he wins, everyone gets their money’s worth, for even if you wanted to scoff at his claims to be the ‘greatest of all-time’ — Emil Zatopek, Paavo Nurmi and Jesse Owens might be spinning — there is no debate about who is the greatest entertainer athletics has embraced.
Bolt’s 19.32 had a special resonance as the same time that Michael Johnson recorded with his historic landmark run in Atlanta in 1996. It would have been even faster if he had not eased up, but Bolt reckoned he could "feel the strain" on his back.
Yes, that was how good he was; he could afford to glance across at the line having quite switched off the gas and still set the fourth fastest time ever, a mark only he, twice, and Blake had previously surpassed.
Blake adopted that same brave smile again afterwards, wondering how on earth you surpass the unsurpassable; Bolt’s 22-year-old training partner did his impression of the growling ‘beast’ with his claws out on the start line but then he got a rare old mauling, even though his 19.44sec was the seventh fastest ever.
Yet, there was no time for feeling too downcast. Bolt made sure of that once it dawned that, actually, his two mates had filled the minor places, with Weir, a converted 22-year-old hurdler barely known internationally before their national trials, taking bronze in a lifetime best of 19.84.
Even if Blake was feeling just a little shattered, he could not help himself and had to laugh too. Only Bolt, who consoled him with a genuine-looking hug, can seem to do this; make even his victims feel good about themselves.
The rest of the world was nowhere. Europe’s finest, Christophe Lemaitre, was sixth in 20.19, while America’s best Wallace Spearmon, fourth in a season’s best 19.90, could only admit tearfully: "Those guys are on another planet right now."
Particularly Bolt, who has been floating around in this spaceship for four years now. That is the true measure of his greatness; apart from one blip in last year’s world championships in Daegu, when he false started in the 100m, he has practically never stopped inhabiting this completely different league. That’s why he has no match as history’s best sprinter.
What a night too for Glen Mills, the big bear of a coach who becomes the first in history to guide the gold and silver medallists in two events, and train all three on the podium for Weir, too, is part of his Racers Track Club group in Kingston.
On a beautiful, calm night, the chief support bout had been Rudisha’s gun-to-line two-lap masterpiece which seemed to dare Bolt to "beat that!"
With just enough breeze around to blow them into history — 0.4m/sec — there was a distinct feel that the record could go. Indeed, Bolt looked as if he might be waving farewell to it as he offered a unique slow motion Queen Elizabeth wave on the start-line.
Er, not exactly a worried man then. After his difficult season, Bolt felt normal service had been resumed with his 9.63 100m triumph on Sunday and he was so relaxed that he could even start chatting up the pretty — and pretty nervous — blocks official at the start. Then, he blasted away to one of his very best starts of the season in lane seven, hitting the bend with a vengeance.
Blake, three lanes inside him, was already struggling off the bend, although there seemed a 20m stretch where Blake looked to be clawing the lead back fractionally.
It was an illusion. That ground-devouring stride was already taking the unreal Mr. Bolt into a pantheon all of his own.
(C) The Telegraph Group,
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Last Updated May 23 2013 | 10:49 pm