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Ghost of Owens inspires Bolt

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Tom Fordyce | 22:58 UK time, Sunday, 16 August 2009

One day Usain Bolt is going to do something that a normal human being might do. He'll spill his tea, or drop his chicken nuggets, or trip over his shoelaces.

One day. For now, he astonishes and astounds with everything he does. Maurice Greene, a former 100m world champion and world record holder, summed it up beautifully: "The Earth stopped for a second, and he went to Mars."

Almost exactly 73 years ago in this Olympiastadion, Jesse Owens produced an athletic performance that made sporting history. Before Sunday night, it seemed impossible that anyone could ever match those deeds.

That was before 9.58 seconds. That was before Usain landed.

Sometimes with moments like this it's the small details that can be the most revealing. Tyson Gay ran 9.71 secs and was nowhere. Well, second. That's the fastest an American has ever run, a time that would have won every other world championship there's been by a massive margin.

Bolt wins races by the sort of distance that would be considered a spanking in a 400m contest. He behaves in a manner that the sport has never seen before, and then runs times that no-one believed they would ever see.

Greene reckoned he might one day see a low 9.6 but never a 9.5. His predecessor as the fastest man in history, Donovan Bailey, thought the same.

When Bolt ran 9.69 secs last summer in Beijing, even that seemed an impossible time. To take another 11 hundredths of a second off that defies logic, history and everyone else's biology.

Photo from the Seiko Press Service showing Bolt's 100 win

The world record has never before been broken by a margin that big, not in the modern era of computerised timing. Five men have never before run under 9.93 seconds in the same race.

The greatest 100m in history? Surely. The greatest sprinter ever? Unquestionably.

Standing on the start-line, Bolt seemed to know what was coming. As Gay twitched and jumped and sweated alongside him, dwarfed both physically and emotionally, Bolt pretended to play some imaginary drums. When the television camera arrived in front on him he winked. "I'm ready," he yelled. "Are you ready? Let's go!"

Every man, woman and child in the place was already on their feet. Portentous music boomed over the masive stadium speakers. My hands were shaking and my legs jiggling, yet somehow Bolt was laughing and horsing around.

Crouched on the blocks in his yellow vest and long green shorts, the smile finally slid off his face. A bang, an explosion of long limbs and a handful of flashing footfalls later, it was back and bigger than ever.

There was pandemonium. All anyone could look at were Bolt's dancing orange spikes and the bright yellow numbers on the scoreboards all round the track: 9.58.

People swore. Some clutched their heads. Others looked at their neighbours with open mouths and gaped like goldfish.

It took a while for anyone to ask who came second, or who came third. No-one could remember, transfixed by the image of Bolt glancing left as he crossed the line, searching for his time, and then beating his chest with wild tribal celebrations.

Up in the BBC commentary box, Michael Johnson, the last sprinter before Bolt to create the kinds of waves we are seeing now, struggled to get his jaw working. "We've never seen anything like him, and I'm not sure we'll ever see anything like him again," he said finally.

"It's truly unbelievable what he can do. I think about the people who have to run against him, and I'm glad I'm not one of them."

Before the final, Bolt had made prescient reference to Owens' deeds in the last century. "Jesse made history here, so I'm going to try to do the same," he said.

While the social and political environments in which the two men raced are unrecognisable, as are the substances under their feet - cinders then, blue artificial track now - there are eerie and unmistakable parallels between the pair.

Bolt celebrates another world record

Both first came to the world's attention as callow teenagers at school. Owens equalled the world record for the 100-yard dash while still a student at East Technical High in Cleveland; Bolt won the 200m at the world junior championships as a 15-year-old boy.

Both were 21 years of age when they began to destroy the record books. Owens, famously, set three world records and equalled another in a period of just 45 minutes at the Big Ten meet in Michigan; Bolt blew apart both 100m and 200m world records in five unforgettable days in Beijing.

Both then went on, at the identical age of 22, to astonish the world on a warm August day in Berlin.

Hell, there are even spooky similarities when it comes to their spikes. In 1936, Owens was visited before his final by a German named Adi Dassler, who persuaded him to wear a pair of shoes made by his company Adidas. It was the first endorsement deal an Afro-American athlete had ever been offered.

Fast forward through the years and Bolt has the most lucrative shoe deal ever seen in athletics. The suppliers? Puma, the company founded by Adi's brother Rudi, partly as a result of the money generated by Owens' deeds.

When Bolt was driven out of the Olympiastadion on Sunday night, hundreds of fans sprinting after his exhaust fumes, it was down a road re-named Jesse-Owens-Allee.

It might be time to build another alongside it. Usain Strasse, or maybe Bolt Boulevard. And there will be no speed limit.


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  • Comment number 1.

    He really is the best, isn't he? Usually, it's possible to argue about where an athlete or any sort of sportsman fits into the great scheme of things - Woods is great but is he better than Nicklaus; Federer's marvellous, but better than Laver? And so on and so on.
    With Bolt there's just no room for argument. He reduces his opposition to rubble and the rest of us to drooling disbelief. I reckon that I might have forty or so years left on this planet if I behave myself. I know for sure that Usain Bolt will still be the world record holder for 100 metres when I go. The world is not going to see his like again for generations, if ever.
    Nice blog, by the way. Encapsulates the sense of wonder that I'm sure we sports nuts are all feeling.

  • Comment number 2.

    bolt can go faster still i dont see anyone pressuring him yet. Big up to him and Asafa. we are showing the world you can run fast "clean"

  • Comment number 3.

    Unbelievable. Very nice technical and atmosphere piece about probably the most astonishing world record in history.

    Has anyone actually worked out what has maximum speed was during the race and when it was reached?

  • Comment number 4.

    Still in a fog of disbelief. 100m world records are very slowly evolved, brought down by hundreths at a time. Not tenths. If you look at the progress of the WR, before Ben Johnson it was 9.84, he assisted (!) ran 9.79, afterwards when all had been sorted it was back to 9.92, then a very gradual lowering to 9.77 with Powell over the course of almost the next 20 years. In less than 2 years Bolt has reduced it by 2 tenths. 2 tenths!!!And he says he is going to do the 200m - sub-19 seconds? Before tonight that would have seemed ridiculous, even for Bolt - but if you do 2 times 9.58 that is 19.16, and he will of course be carrying speed into the second 100. Whatever happens, athletics has got a whole lot more exciting...

  • Comment number 5.

    Quite apart from his amazing blessed sprinting ability what's most amazing about Bolt is how he maintains the same personality he has always had. Yes bit cocky and confidents (quite a help in sprinting) but not arrogant and conceited. Humnble and happy and most of all clearly someone having fun. And believe as a lifelong follower of athletics (particularly the 100m) ahtletics has NOT been fun for a long long time. Thank you Usain and long may you continue to smile for us all!

  • Comment number 6.


  • Comment number 7.

    I initially wondered if there was a typo in the article when I read that Bolt had run 9.58. Seeing the picture in this blog certainly confirms it, but it's still incredibly difficult to believe.

    He ran an average - AVERAGE - speed of around 23.3mph. Like Cricketing_Stargazer above, I'd love to know what his peak speed was...

  • Comment number 8.

    Good article Tom. Bolt was simply superb and I do feel for Tyson Gay. I doubt if fit that he would have come closer to Bolt but needless to say, 9.71 is a winning performance under normal conditions. Unfortunately, racing against a 'Bolt of lightning' is far from normal and proves why Usain is no ordinary sprinter. Hopefully, he'll take the sprints only as far as another Olympic and few more World Championships before taking on the 400m as it would be unfortunate for the promising sprinters and the current crop of sprinter to have to face Bolt for the better part of their career. History would simply be unkind to them. Don't know if i'll sleep tonight as I feel like Paul on the road to Damascus-i think I may have seen something paranormal.

  • Comment number 9.

    Again, another "words fail me" performance by one of the greatest athletics performers ever. What continues to raise in my mind is whether he can dosomething truly unique. Rumour had it that prior to the Olympics Bolt was doing 400 m training runs "just to work some variety in". Is there a chance that, getting bored at shattering the lower two distances he may have a stab at the 400 meters? I know, it's a totally different event, legs go to jelly at 300 etc.etc. etc., but look at the way the man runs. He doesn't look like a prototype 100 meter man. He is built more like a one lapper.

    Michael Johnson showed that you can go down a distance from 400 and Juantorena back in 76 showed that a 400 meter runner could go up to 800. His coaches too said that the double lap reps he was doing at the time in training were just to increase his endurance. You think it is in the back of Bolt's his coaches minds that this might be a shot at immortality?

  • Comment number 10.

    Hi Tom

    While lowering the record by 11 hundredths would normally defy logic, this doesn't take into account that when he set the 9.69 record in Beijing, we all saw Bolt visibly slow down in the last 10m to almost a walking pace while doing his impersonation of an Irish jig - that surely cost him around 0.10 second.

    So no-one should be that surprised that he smashed his own record in Berlin when he was obviously not trying as hard as he could last time.

  • Comment number 11.

    Bolt was originally a 400m runner and I have little doubt he could approach the world record if he tried.

  • Comment number 12.

    Excellent article. Not much more I can say about Bolt that hasn't already been said.


  • Comment number 13.

    Great article. It is important that excellence is highlighted and celebrated especially when cynicism about the sport is so rampant. More than the mind boggling times and your engaging personality,thank you Usain for revitalizing global interest in Track and Field. You are truly a timely and special gift in more ways than one!

  • Comment number 14.

    A truly amazing race !

  • Comment number 15.

    Once there is lightening there will be Thunder...Gay will be under his bed crying his eyes out from the Terror.... and then all Gay could see is A-fass-ah Powell coming to make the terror a forever unforgettable reality...:)

    You know as a Jamaican I can't resist poking fun at Tyson Gay, because coming in to the World Champs he was talking too much. He did not disappoint, he ran a good race.

    Very good article, its Amazing how HIStory can repeat itself.... It doesnt matter how fast you're going, you have got to know where coming from to know where you're going in order to get where you need to be....

  • Comment number 16.

    There are no words in the english Language that i could string together in a sentence that would adequately sum up Bolts performance tonight. Therefore there is no point praising him because the praise wouldn't be sufficient enough to mark the achievement. Truly out of this world, how must Gay be feeling right now, he gets within 3 100ths of a second of the old world record just to see it smashed by over a tenth more.

  • Comment number 17.

    Impressed, who wouldn't be, surprised, not really since we hadn't seen Bolt run a 100m full steam. He even faced critics from the governing body of the Olymics when establishing his record for lack of respect of his peers. It was obvious he strolled over the finishing line and had so much left in the tank. Even yesterday he surely "lost" a couple of hundredths by looking right and then left to read his time before accomplishing a astonishing feat. More to come, I predict sub 9.5 before he retires from the 100 and then moves on to establish more impossible records on the 400m. He will improve the 200 this week.

  • Comment number 18.

    Wow, what a great performance, cant see anyone break his record in the coming centuries. I wish could see a Pakistani athlete running for the same record.May be one day (Inshallah)

  • Comment number 19.

    Phenomenal ... please o heavenly mercy may this athlete be clean ... the sport as it is now does not need a positive test for an athlete who has changed the playing fields so incredibly .. what a race

  • Comment number 20.

    Mind boggling, 9.58 secs! He sure defied known biology, cut his silhouette clean through the barrier of Time. Seeing the unearthly record I was hoping Bolt ran a serious professional race and wasted no minuscule fraction off the record, indulging in finish line frolic a la Beijing. But not so; he stole a glance or two to look at the giant Sieko timer. He is an 'impossible terresterian'. I never thought I'd be a track aficionado one day.

    Been heavily into horse racing, and I can say with assurance that Bolt is not built like a sprinter. Asafa and Tyson builds are much more typical. Bolt's is more akin to what God allocates to the stayers, but only just. I will not be surprised if he goes on to find his metier at 400 metres. That despite the fact no one on the planet is a better exponent of sprint.

    I'd like to believe, seeing Gay ran the American national record and was well in arrears, Bolt has run the slowest possible race, just enough to win.

    And Tom, I never thought a BBC blogger could write like that. Makes me feel I am living in good times. I'll take care never to spill my coffee again. Thanks.

  • Comment number 21.

    Lemme say something that everyone seems to be avoiding.Every doping agency should come down on Bolt like a ton of bricks.Just so that it's proved once and for all that this event of nature is clean and we can all go gaga with celebrations for I have yet to see a sportsman who makes everyone feel happy.Except those who line up against him.But even they should pay him homage,he pulled everyone except Asafa Powell into faster times than they would ordinarily have done.Like someone has pointed out it does feel like scales falling off our eyes.Athletics just moved up another hear.That quote really has to make it into quotes of the week.Even God must've been watching and saying,"Damn it,we should remake all humans with scoliosis!" Carl Lewis was great,Jesse Owens immortal,but Usain Bolt is an act of God.If he wasn't such an exuberant character,the man would be scary.These are tough times for the world,but I can't see anyone outside the 7 other men who were up against it who didn't light up at this performance.

  • Comment number 22.

    This was not about one man. Consider also Tyson Gay's time last night delivered on the back of not the best of pre-season and in-season build ups - he may even have had tensions in the groin area right up to this week.

    The masses need a hero and a god, the few see the light and make their mark. What is happening at the moment in sprinting is no more extraordinary than what happened with the mile under Bannister
    and Landy a few decades back.

    There are one or two Olympic standard marathon runners who can deliver a sub 11 second 100 metres. It stands to reason that a 100m specialist should be obliterating 10 seconds, else all this stuff about fast twitch / slow twitch type athletes is reduced to rubble!

    The 100m can go to 9 seconds and the marathon to 1hr 50 minutes, those are the limits of human endeavour.

  • Comment number 23.

    A phenom plain and simple - I cannot believe how you can run 9.71 and be blown away in the 100m! No wonder Gay looked shell shocked. Bolt is in my eyes the greatest sprinter of all time and he is only 22 and just won 4 gold medals in major champs inc relays. If he stays away from injury than we could be looking at the possibility of 9.4's in the 100m. A crazy thing to say 2 years ago! I think the 200m world record will go this week as well and in a few years the 400m will fall to Bolt too. Enjoy him while he is here because his type dont come around often.

  • Comment number 24.

    I alwayse get curiouse to listen to Michael johnson, he says that think about the opponents Bolt and he is glad that he is not one of them..thats the thrut..i admired Tayson Gay, what an situation! u have to run the best out of you , breaking american records witch were been alwayse worlds records and then just to be secound behind and with a margine....this 9,58s on 100m, i honnestly expected something like that, as he has run last year 9,6 without competitors and shut it down with 10 m to go, this time he got Tayson Gay as a real competitor,that made him runing a full race, and then a world record .however in 200m bolt is not going to run another another 19,3s . i expect only 19,6, and if Tayson gay push him it wil be 19,5s, not more...altough he (bolt) is so talented and nice guy, i stil see that 19,3s of Michael johnson as real world record, or tenmist i can say if Michael runs then a full race he would got a record of 19,28 something like that, bot at bejing did run a full race and it was just 19,3s...but i dont see anything and any one is going to push him to run below 19,3s

  • Comment number 25.

    Usain? More like insane! last night was just mental, 9.58 and looking round like a tourist. 9.58, rubbernecking to check his time. Phenomenon is the only description that comes close, and it ain't that close!

  • Comment number 26.

    I don't see why these records will not be broken any time soon, or remain for ever etc. I'm pretty sure that since last year, all track & field coaches are on the lookout for tall, lean boys (and girls), maybe even kidnapping them from their volleyball/swimming/high jump training. It's clearly a question of getting somebody with an enormous stride, like Bolt, to have the same throughput (I'm not sure of this term) in strides per second as the short and muscular sprinters. New training techniques, combined with Bolt-like statures, and I'm sure that 4 to 6 years from now we'll be watching a 20yr old, 2m tall guy from the Bahamas or someplace break these records that leave us gaping today.

  • Comment number 27.

    Faster than the countless drugs cheats from the past. Truly incredible.

  • Comment number 28.

    It is truly remarkable what this guy can do. In the right conditions I'm convinced he can break the 9.5 barrier.

    As for Tyrone Edgar, I do feel for him, but he wouldn't have made the final. He would have to have run at least half a second faster than he's done before.

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 30.

    Outstanding. The performance of the millennium in any sporting event. Well done Gay for running a good race and Powell for running closer to his potential - it appeared to me Bolt's sparring with Powell before the race allowed him to relax sufficiently to pull out a big performance. Big hearted Bolt has single-handedly (with a little help from Jamaican Athletics) repaired the damage drugs has done to the sport.

    So GibsonLesPaul what you are saying is that he would have broken the record by 15 hundredths of a second - that is even more phenomenal.

  • Comment number 31.

    About drugs. Are people suggesting Bolt is not being subjected to dope tests? I am sure he is being tested regularly, assumption being WADA publishes only the positive results. It cannot be that the man who bolts the door on record breaking for 20 years, say is roaming around unexamined by the watchdog.

  • Comment number 32.

    It's a bird,it's a plane,it's...Usain Bolt!Someone once said athletics is a sport between duelling chemists.Hope its not so in this case.Still needs to work on his dancing though!

  • Comment number 33.

    I am contracting a scaffolding firm to enable my bottom jaw to be reattached to the rest of my mouth - I still can't believe it - that was probably the most 'awesome' sporting performance I have ever seen. I am close to 50 years old and having seen a lot of sport, I still cannot think of anything that comes close - what is this guy going to be able to achieve??
    Just glad I was around to see it.

  • Comment number 34.

    Bolt's performance was truly amazing. I just pray that we don't discover that he's been doping. It's a breath of fresh air having someone like him around

  • Comment number 35.

    It is such a pleasure to watch Usain Bolt run. It's good that the race is less than 10 seconds; it isn't difficult to hold ones breath!! Notwithstanding the phnenomenonal display, it is necessary for all of us to pray ( if we believe in prayer) and keep our fingers crossed that it is a clean race and that nothing ever creates a situation wherein we are forced to doubt the feat. Remember Lance Armstrong!!

  • Comment number 36.

    I think you are clutching at straws for the comparisons that either don't exist or are unavoidable, both runners being black is unavoidable, both running in the same stadium, is an accident of history, the only other thing thats close is the shoe, and they have that in common with every other athlete.
    Nonetheless, I walked into the room at the gun, I saw the whole race, I am still not sure what I saw except in all logic how does anyone compete against Bolts physical size. His hips are where most peoples chests begin. This is like trying to race a rally and and f1 on the same track. ..... For Gay to be any quicker, he will need to grow a few inches.

  • Comment number 37.

    That race was insane.

    I watched the Olympics 100m with mouth open in utter disbelief especially because he gave up 10m from the end and for him to perform even better is just unreal!!

    I wander what his pre-race preparations were this time round.

    Looking forward to the 200m now...could be very special.

  • Comment number 38.

    Bolt is NOT on the roids. Sprinting is alot cleaner than it was in the late 80's and 90's.

    You look at the build of sprinters in the late 80's and 90's- much shorter and stockier than now. Even Tyson Gay and Powell, muscular though they are, are nowhere near as big as B Johnson,L Christie, D Bailey, T Montgomery, Greene were in their time and I wonder why?

    I think Bolt is totally clean as is T Gay and Powell. They don't have the Dwain Chambers, 'swollen neck and chest look' for starters ( a trademark of THG).

  • Comment number 39.

    Bolt's knocked the same amount off Asafa Powell's World Record in two years that it previously took 30 years to knock off Jim Hines (16 hundredths), it took 15 years to even beat Jim Hines' record, since then the men's 100 metre World record has dropped by over three tenths in 21 years, in the womens 100 metres take out Flo-Jo and Marion Jones (I'll let you decide the reasons) and the fastest time has advanced 3 hundredths since 1984.

    So either men are advancing physiologically at a rate unmatched by women or there's something rotten in the state of sprinting. Heck, I hope Bolt IS a freak and a phenomenon, he seems a thoroughly decent bloke and it would be nice to believe that his feats were absolutely pure sporting achievement, but Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery were the perfect sporting couple until somebody blew the whistle on something previously undetectable.

  • Comment number 40.

    First that was an unbelievable race by Gay. 9.71 is a phenomenal time especially as he has had a groin injury and was clearly protecting it in relatively unimpressive rounds. So how do you describe a performance that left him stranded!! Although, apart from the glance, Bolt did have to run this to the line for the first time. I do think he could still go faster. Also agree that 200M and 400M could be even better. He does have a massive stature but that must impair his start and ability to get going which should mean that over 200M he should be better and will probably reach a higher speed than in the 100M.

    How long can he continue? If he can keep injury-free and motivated then probably quite a while but once he has set unattainable records and he already is a global superstar then the mental effort to keep training hard will be difficult. A step up to 400M and that challenge may actually be needed to heep him engaged.

  • Comment number 41.

    I hope this is clean. There are so many question marks over the Jamaican drug testing policy that I make a heartfelt wish that Bolt has distanced himself from these other athletes and will remain a breathtaking phenomenon.

  • Comment number 42.

    If Maurice Greene hasn't had his 'GOAT' tattoo removed yet, maybe Usain should give him a little nudge??

  • Comment number 43.

    Sheer brilliance. Unforgettable. I don't think there are enough superlatives in the English language to describe what we witnessed last night. I am still stunned.

  • Comment number 44.

    All very well and good but they Jamaican athletes were only allowed to take part after an 11th hour decision in their favour, as there has been a lot of doubts cast on just how effective the off-season testing has been in Jamaica, recently the subject of a documentary on the German state broadcaster's equivalent to BBC1.
    Don't be surprised if in the near future, we hear of irregularities, just like cycling, performance enhancing substances are endemic and without incredibly rigorous testing we can never know if any of the performances we see are "for real".

  • Comment number 45.

    not sure what all the fuss is about to be honest....clearly no-ones seen me running home kebab in hand after a friday night out!

  • Comment number 46.

    Couple of questions for you this morning, with Berlin still abuzz after what went on last night:

    1. When will Usain peak? He's 22 now - is this him running at his best (injury and cynicism free, physically mature, pushed on by Gay) or does his relative newness to the 100m mean he'll be knocking chunks off the this record for years to come?

    2. Will he break his own world record in the 200m on Thursday night? Arguably it's even tougher to break than his 100m mark, since he ran hard to the line in Beijing in the 200m - but after Sunday night, how can you rule anything out?

  • Comment number 47.

    Bolt produced an amazing run which possibly he is the only one who can better in a generation. I won't try and out do the superlatives already used to describe him.

    But I do spare a thought and hope for Tyson Gay. He produced an amazing run as well (only Bolt has run quicker). Something I noted was that Bolt did not keep accelerating away from Gay - the damage was done within the first 30 or so metres.

    I believe that Gay can run faster and run Bolt closer - he needs to start better, but even so I am not convinced he'll beat an on-form Bolt.

    I think Gay will be even more competitive in the 200m against Bolt (assuming he remains injury free) - I just hope that Tyson feels the same otherwise he will have lost the battle before getting on to the track.

    The reality is that amazing achievements without a competitive element can be boring (e.g. Schumacher and Ferrari dominating F1 for so long). Usain needs Tyson and vice-versa to reach further heights.

  • Comment number 48.

    @ Cricketing-stargazer and @Neko Bazu - We are fighting dreamers!:

    The IAAF have published split times for the event ( which show Bolt as fastest between 60m (6.31s) and 80m (7.92s). 1.61 seconds to go 20 metres is 1 km in 80.5 seconds, or 44.72 km/h (27.79 mph). So he may have touched 28 mph.

    I wonder if we'll see him break the speed limit in a built-up area in our lifetimes?

  • Comment number 49.

    englancomeon - Bolt was not one of the athletes who tested positive for a LEGAL stimulant, they were minor runners. They did nothing illegal anyway, but the Jamaican doping authorities are still trying to ban them. If you want to suspect anyone suspect Gay, because the Americans have had a system of not revealing positive tests and clearing their athletes going back to the early 80s. I personally believe they are all clean, as mentioned above the physiques of the modern runners are completely different to the juicers of the 80s and 90s.
    Before disregarding the greatest athletic display in living memory it would be nice if you actually got your facts right.
    39 - Marion Jones doped from high school and everyone knew it, their has never been any suspicion around Bolt, if anything he hasn't taken running seriously enough.

  • Comment number 50.

    This is just a reminder of how inspirational great sporting moments can be. 9.58? If you'd suggested that a few years ago you would have been ridiculed beyond belief. Now I don't think there's too many people who think 9.4 is beyond his reach.

    Let's hope he improves over the next 3-4 years and peaks at 25-26. I feel sorry for the other guys... similar to anyone who takes on Michael Phelps in the water. I think to make the next race fair they need to get a couple of cheetahs in lanes 7-8 to put some pressure on!!!!!

  • Comment number 51.

    Wow! WOW! WOW-WOW!!!!

    Q: Where were you when JFK got shot??
    A: Who cares??!

    Now THE question will be:
    Where were YOU when Usain Bolt ran the greatest race in history??

    Too many superlatives to write, and I am not foolish enough to try and describe this achievement by using mere words.....I will simply point to Michael Johnson's reaction on the BBC after seeing the new WR of (and I still can't believe I am about to write this) 9.58....That just about said it all for me.

    The race (and the reaction!!) was one of those great sporting TV moments.

    Very, very special indeed.

  • Comment number 52.

    I initially wondered if there was a typo in the article when I read that Bolt had run 9.58. Seeing the picture in this blog certainly confirms it, but it's still incredibly difficult to believe.


    Same here, I read it and thought HA the beeb have screwed up, it has to be .68, then I watched the race!

    1. When will Usain peak? - Physically probably around 25-27, technique wise maybe the same plus a year or two as most sprinters. That will not be the issue, his problem will become motivtion. I actually expect him at some point to go after the 400m as well because he is just so strong and at that point his 100 will suffer as I'm not sure he can do all three at the same time.

    2. Will he break his own world record in the 200m on Thursday night? - Of course it's possible but I would be surprised, doing both in one games was something special, it might never be repeated, I do expect him to beat 19 seconds though before 2012.

  • Comment number 53.

    I agree with Tom - this was amazing stuff by Bolt.

    Let's not forget the impressive performances put in by the other performers in that final, though. Bolt has been blessed by God - as many of the responses here suggest. He does not do something the others are not doing (I dearly hope & pray!) to be this good and it's not that he is more dedicated, etc. He was obviously just born different. But he has made the most of what he was given - which is always to be admired and recognised.

    However, let me just say something on a slightly different tack to many of the comments here...

    Bolt has advanced the world record by a devastating margin - perhaps a 50 year leap forward - but his times WILL eventually be broken by another, sometime in the future. Nobody has the last word on anything, as long as humanity will exist. When Ben Johnson did what he did, it was deemed unmatchable (drugs or not). When Michael Johnson set the 200m record it was a moment like Sunday's final and was deemed unmatchable. MJ in his heart believed he would die with his record intact - and so did many others. Bolt's times WILL also be bettered some day, rest assured, AND THE PERSON WHO WILL DO IT HAS PROBABLY ALREADY BEEN BORN.

    One last bit - the 400m world record. I believe, to be truly immortal - and to surpass Jesse Owens et al - Bolt will have to challenge the 400m distance.

    He is a 200m/400m runner, originally, and has even done a competitive 400m this year. But that will be the true test of greatness for him, because his 100m exploits are more about a God-given talent which nobody else has.

    If Bolt takes on the 400m I do not believe he will be able to disfigure the record books the way he's done at the other distances. The physiological metabolism related to running the 400m is different to that for the 100m (although the 200m is often more closely related in many individuals).

    Bolt will be challenged - and pushed beyond his comfort zone - if he decides to take on the world's best at 400m. Then he can finally step past Jesse Owens. Remember, Carl Lewis and Jesse Owens both did 4 events - 3 of which are solely dependent on the individual for success (relays are a group effort). Bolt does 2 standard individual events. Only by adding the 400m to his list of victories will he move from simple freak of nature to truly great - and he will do something that truly may never be matched for the rest of time (even if he never sets a world record for 400m - winning a major championship medal in the event will seal his place ahead of Lewis and Owens).

    Greatness demands context and it also demands doing something thought to be beyond your potential - whatever that potential is thought to be. "From those to whom much is given, much is asked" - it's only fair.

    Owens was great, not just because of his times - but because of 'The Times' he lived in. Same for Ali in boxing. Bolt cannot choose when he was born, but he has enough talent to stretch himself and truly aspire for immortal greatness (to be able to say he has fully fulfilled his true potential). That is his only route to fulfilling HIS own, ultimate, greatness...He must step forward and defy his perceived potential, rather than leaving more 'what-ifs' by taking the easier route.

    Idai Makaya
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 54.

    @extithelemming, (@Cricketing-stargazer, @Neko Bazu)

    Interesting to see the split times - this means that Bolt's run was very similar to the Olympics run except that he continued to the end.

    Taking those numbers and comparing to the values for the Beijing run from
    you find the following (Apologies for the bad-looking format....)

    Distance (m) | Average speed (km/h) over 20m splits
    | Beijing | Berlin

    20 | 27.38 | 24.91
    40 | 40.47 | 41.14
    60 | 43.13 | 43.11
    80 | 43.90 | 44.72
    100 | 41.69 | 43.37

    So you see the striking difference is the final 20m - which really is the final 10m where Bolt averaged 40 km/h in Beijing whereas now he ran to the max. His top speed was also higher in Berlin (by 1.7%), but I doubt it will have been much higher than the 44.72 average over the 60-80m region as his distance-velocity curve is fairly smooth.

    Still the numbers give no justice to the awesome run!!

  • Comment number 55.

    One more thing, with Powell running so fast as well expect the Relay record to be smashed apart.

  • Comment number 56.

    With Bolt dominating so dramatically, how long is it before we see a trend of taller sprinters who might actually have a chance against him?

  • Comment number 57.

    Watching Michael Johnson in the mid to late 90's I remember thinking this is it. This is the greatest performer I'll ever see in my lifetime! That was until last year.

    Bolt is astounding, words cant describe what he's acheived. I certainly feel priviliged to have witnessed it. It really was one of those great sporting moments that just make you gasp. I feel for the rest of the guys in that final, especially Gay - a great effort given his injury situation.

    I hope he gives the 400 a crack, it would be immense to see what he can do there.

  • Comment number 58.

    Is there a reason why there are so many Carribean sprinters doing the rounds these days? Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Bahamas they all seem to have a crop of athletes able to bash the hell out of the rest. Last night there was 1 Britain, 2 Americans and 5 from Carribean. These countries have small populations and yet produce a large number of talented sprinters.

    There isn't an obvious competing sport in these countries - they don't really produce Footballers (Dwight York aside) or Rugby players and the WIndies Cricket team is not in the best shape. I guess that the schools and athletics clubs are looking for the right physical specimens and bringing them in.

    I hope that WADA has control over the activities, because even if Bolt is clean (which I believe he is, as he runs all over the world being tested by many governing bodies and not just the Jamaican system) it could encourage some to take a short-cut in order to try and emulate his fame and fortune.

  • Comment number 59.

    The sad thing is that with the new rules coming into place about automatic disqualifications for false starts, I find it unlikely that any athlete is going to gamble on the quick start (and a good start is obviously vital), therefore unless someone breaks this world record before the new rule comes into effect (January i believe) then I dont ever see the record being broken. I love Bolt, he is an amazing athlete, but his ridiculously quick time combined with the rule changes has, in my opinion, rendered the mens 100m as an event that can never be bettered, certainly not in my lifetime. Maybe the IAAF need to address this and reverse their ruling, as the mens 100m is consistently the biggest draw to world audiences, and if it loses its competitive edge then athletics loses one of its biggest events.

  • Comment number 60.

    20m splits from Bolt's 100m run:
    According to the above, Bolt ran from 60-80 metres in 1.61, which is 12.4m/s, which is 27.8 mph. As 'Aldebaranian' wrote, this is unlikely to differ significantly from his peak speed. He may *just* have nudged over 28.
    I have to get my head down and grit my teeth a bit to go that fast on a *bike*. Scary.
    What’s the betting he gets a £60 fine and 3 points on his licence at London 2012? ;-)

  • Comment number 61.

    Damn formatting. The Preview lied!

  • Comment number 62.

    Usain's performance was just MERCURIAL!!!
    I just really hope that he was running in chicken nuggets and nothing else!
    In the past, so many disappointing discoveries discredited runners and their performance in athletics.
    Let's hope for the best.

  • Comment number 63.

    Bolt could very conceivably compete in six individual fields if he wanted to - the 100m and 200m obviously, and the 400m and long jump as often suggested. But also, with a bit of practice and his huge leg-span, I wouldn't bet against him in the 110m and 400m hurdles either. I don't think he'd win gold in either of these - at least not with Robles or Kerron Clement around - but he could certainly get on the podium.

  • Comment number 64.

    "To take another 11 hundredths of a second off that defies logic, history and everyone else's biology"

    I don't really understand this because Bolt doing 9.58 yesterday was unsuprising.

    He basically did that time in Beijing because if he had ran through the line instead of celebrating in Beijing, he would have got around 9.58.

    Anyone who saw the Beijing 100m would know this was possible.

  • Comment number 65.

    I am aghast at this man's speed and the consumate ease he takes apart the worlds best.....just like Alberto COntador in every stage race in the last four years....

    Now, I just pray that both of these superstars is clean... I'd say it doesn't matter if neither have failed tests, the doctors are always one step ahead.

  • Comment number 66.

    Sorry, but am i the only one who finds it hard to celebrate records in Athletics? I hope all is 'clean' with this sprinter and we are genuinely seeing greatness, but sadly too many times has athletics 'been to the well' with superhuman records, only for time to catch up- FLO JO anyone!

  • Comment number 67.

    There seem to be some budding Dr Frankenstein's on this blog, forecasting the rise of 2m drones hurtling down the track. Don't think so somehow. Bolt's physiological make up is more than just about his height. His genes may give him a propensity to recover and develop quicker from his intense 3 hour daily training for instance. Michael Johnson's uniqueness was his gait. It didn't mean that coaches dashed out into the school playing fields looking for runners with a similar or odd running style. It's about making the most of what they put down on the track. Bolt's make up like Johnson's before him is an exception (and a wonder) rather than the rule.

    Given favourable (legal) wind conditions, fast track and decent level of competition (Gay, Powell, Bailey, Thompson) a Bolt sub 9.4s must be on. At their current rate of progress, I'd give it 2-3 years, assuming all aforementioned are healthy and injury-free. Carrying that sort of speed into the second half of the 200m makes sub 19s another distinct possibility for Bolt too. The 400m is an awful lot more hard work but he's running differential 400m for his 200m training which means he's got the distance in his legs already so I wouldn't be surprised if he can carry that amazing speed through the last 200m.

    Whether Bolt remains pre-eminent is a moot point as we don't know who will emerge as a result of the greater interest he has stimulated in the sport and the improved training methods being used now (just as most of us were unaware of Bolt's record breaking potential 3 years ago).

  • Comment number 68.

    If you look at the splits during the race you'll see he would also have smashed the 60m record! amazing for someone who is said not to have the best start.

    Also If Bolt reacted as well as some of the others we could have seen him run 9.56.

  • Comment number 69.

    I find it amazing there exists a man who can match my car on a B road. It is just stunning how quick Bolt is.

  • Comment number 70.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 71.

    That was one of the awesome sporting displays I have ever seen. I just feel honoured to have witnessed it live. I can only compare it to how my Father must have felt watching Bob Beamon just 8.90 metres in Mexico City.

    As for the Drugs angle, Athletics is the most tested sport in the World. And do you not think that Bolt will be target number one? Don;t give me all this "off season" rubbish. He will be tested al year round.

    The guy is a one off, one of those people that has everything in the right place, has the right bone structure, the right muscle mass, the right technique to be the ultimate sprinter.

    We had our own version in Jonathin Edwards. No one has ever gotten close to his world record. Michael Johnson is the same in the 400m. Every now and again, someone comes along an rewrites the rule book.

    I feel sorry for those that cannot share in the delight of this wonderful, wonderful sprinter.

  • Comment number 72.

    utterly breathtaking performance. I have enjoyed watching the race again and again as well as analysing the data of Split times etc. Will these records of Bolts be broken? For sure I feel he can definitely run faster but whether another man will come close in the next 10-20 years I think is extremely unlikely. They could feasibly last forever. However putting aside Bolt the other times are also astonishing and highlight an advancement in Sprinting in the last 4-5 years (for whatever reasons.) 9.71 in 2nd and even 9.84 looking slow in 3rd are exceptional times and are a good step ahead of recent years. Powell beat Gay's winning time from 2 years ago in Osaka but was only 3rd!! I often wonder if the likes of Mo Greene would have been able to run faster had he been pushed by athletes running in the 9.7's regularly?
    As for Caribbean athletes excelling its no great surprise. Johnson, Donavon Bailey and Linford Christie are really Jamaicans but represented other country's. The peoples that populated the caribbean islands were most times the strongest of the slaves taken from west africa which leads to them having the best genetic stock. Of all the men to run sub 10 secs only 1 has been of non west african geneology, Patrick Johnson a Aborigine/irish blend.
    Still Bolt is head and shoulders the greatest of them all.

  • Comment number 73.

    The BBC website states that Bold 'shaved' 0.11 seconds of his previous mark. That time does not represent a shaving in the context of 100 metres, that is a veritable hacking/!!

  • Comment number 74.

    The best thing about the Bolt phenomenon is that men's sprinting is now without the swaggering macho posturing that used to characterise it. He has given the others license to fool around too, witness Asafa's actions too. He is truly a breath of fresh air.

    I do wonder if we aren't being forced to reconsider our ideas about the 'ideal' build for sprinting. The dogma was that people with Usain's long legs couldn't sprint fast because by the time they got their legs moving they would be last, he has destroyed that assumption. It was also why he was supposed to be a 400m runner, probably with an eye to those legs in the 400m Hurdles. Coaches are conservative that way.

    If Jess Ennis can be one of the country's top 110m hurdlers and a good high jumper at 5'5", then clearly body shape and size are not necessarily deal breakers. How many other long legged fast men are there out there who are not allowed to run the sprints? There is nothing that says that muscle fibre type is determined by body size. Watch this space.

  • Comment number 75.

    I truly want to believe, I really do. But with where athletics has come from (and where it probably still is) there is that little niggle of doubt...

    Yes he is tested heavily, but top sports stars are very good at avoiding getting caught these days (micro dosing, new drugs, blood doping etc). The testers are always playing catch up.

    But if he is clean...WOW.

  • Comment number 76.

    The secret to why Bolt keeps winning is in how he runs. Watch the BBC replay and compare him to the others. He has a certain spring in his step which the others don't necessary have. He throws his body forward with momentum, using that spring to counteract it, bringing his knees up high, keeping his arms close to his body.

    It's fantastic. He is the near perfect runner as far as the physics go.

  • Comment number 77.

    Interesting point: 9.58 * 2 is 19.16- ie less than 19.30, the 200m world record.

    This must be the first time in *decades* that the 100m world record has a higher average speed than the 200m. I'd be interested to know the last time that this was the case!

  • Comment number 78.

    God given talent yes but no matter the natural talent you have, you need to train hard and above all have or develop the mental toughness to win races. Bolt is just awesome and has a great personality to match. The scary thing about him is that I get the impression he just having fun and not pushing himself....incredible.

    As for the sour grapes doubters thinking he is on drugs, keep dreaming and enjoy a living legend of sprinting. Looking forward to the 200m and relay.

  • Comment number 79.

    I simply love this man. He's one of the most exciting and gifted athletes to have ever lived. I love the 100m. So pure. Simply, "I bet, I can run from here to there faster than you."

    In Bolt's case, "I bet I can run from here to there faster than anyone on the planet has ever done before".

    I'm not sure this race, as a race as had much wow factor for me as the 100 and 200 from Beijing, but as a time... staggering. In Beijing, the thing that amazed me was how he simply accelerated away from the field with consummate ease. For any Top Gear fans it was akin to those drag races where they put the Bugatti Veyron up against, well... anything else.

    Initially, for just a moment, all is equal and then Bolt's engine fires and he accelerated majestically away from the field as though they were school kids and not the 'other seven fastest men in the world'. The sense of athletic firepower and outright domination was inspiring. In that mid-section in Beijing when he pulled clear with such ease, there was nothing like that.

    Here in Berlin, he lead, but to some extent, though way behind, Tyson Gay went with the Boltman. The time was more impressive, but the manner, for me less so.

    Two different races, two equally awe-inspiring performances.

    Usain Bolt makes me wish I could run like that. I remember as a kid sometimes being so full of energy and running that I felt like I could take flight if I set my mind to it. To run wasn't an effort, it was like gliding and my legs responded with astonishing speed. Bolt makes me feel like that again.

    To the rest of the field, you are all class athletes but I'm afraid you're a world apart. These records will stand for a long time, Bolt has a rare rare gift.

  • Comment number 80.

    Bolt - 41 paces in 9.58s to win
    Gay - 46 paces in 9.71s for second

    Its hard to see how Gay can win over the longer distance where he'll need to do about 90 paces to Bolt's 80!

  • Comment number 81.

    Based on the bio-mechanical analysis, (see link below), Bolt ran the 60-80m leg in 1.61 secs, which is 12.4m/s or 27.7mph...RAPID!

  • Comment number 82.

    What a suprise. A comment questioning the validity of this in view of the past history of sprinting being deleted by the BBC.

  • Comment number 83.

    And you, Tom, are a genius writer!

  • Comment number 84.

    Astonishing! Astounding! Extraterrestrial!


    On to more important matters however - he seems like a genuinely laidback nice sort of chap.

    Now for a professional athlete, that IS a major achievement.

  • Comment number 85.


    "This must be the first time in *decades* that the 100m world record has a higher average speed than the 200m. I'd be interested to know the last time that this was the case!"

    Not too long ago - Pietro Mennea's awesome 19.72 was only beaten by Michael Johnston in 1996 IIRC. That means a split of 9.86 and that was achieved by Carl Lewis in 1991 according to's record lists. Thus between 1991 & 1996 the 100m record had higher average speed (just) than the 200m record.

  • Comment number 86.

    What was the watershed moment in relation to drugs in sprinting? At what point did we move from a situation where practically every 100m sprinting champion was failing drugs tests to a situation where the fastest sprinter of them all isn't suspected of taking drugs?

  • Comment number 87.

    BMACO1981 wrote:
    What was the watershed moment in relation to drugs in sprinting? At what point did we move from a situation where practically every 100m sprinting champion was failing drugs tests to a situation where the fastest sprinter of them all isn't suspected of taking drugs?

    When you say "every sprinting champio" you mean just the; Tim Montgomery. Oh and Dwain Chambers, but he was never a champion. I presume you have a long list of others?

  • Comment number 88.

    Unless somebody has also thought of it, Husain is like a "bolt of lightning". His surname more than reflects his performance on the tracks.

  • Comment number 89.

    A mind-boggling time! Which is the greater performance? Bolt's 9.58 or Radcliffe's 2:15:25?

  • Comment number 90.

    PeteBrant, so Tim Montgomery & Dwain Chambers have spoiled it for all the clean sprinters over the last 25 years have they? Good man yourself!

  • Comment number 91.

    9.58 defies logic ..

    Well, maybe time really did slow down for him travelling at that speed?

    afterall he is a lightning bolt! and does his nickname justice

  • Comment number 92.

    Unless anyone has already thought of it (and from France I haven't read the UK newspapers), Bolt really lives up to a name reflecting his incredible racing strength : Bolt of Lightning!!

  • Comment number 93.

    I'm sure there will be drug whispers, especially here in the USA. However, I doubt anyone in Track is tested as much as Bolt, and until he fails a test I am going to celebrate every amazing moment and pray every night that he stays clean.

    Interesting that on the day that Bolt rewrote the history books, Tiger Woods wrote another chapter of golf history, but in stunningly disappointing fashion. I'm eternally grateful that I had Bolt to more than make up for my Tiger funk.

  • Comment number 94.

    Ok he set a new World record and congratulations to him for that. However i'm going to save all my superlatives for when he runs sub 9.5 - which he will.

  • Comment number 95.

    At 2:09pm on 17 Aug 2009, BMACO1981 wrote:
    PeteBrant, so Tim Montgomery & Dwain Chambers have spoiled it for all the clean sprinters over the last 25 years have they? Good man yourself

    I'll take that as a "no" to the question ,then. Bit of an exageration to say that "nearly every chamption sprinter has been found to be on drugs" then, wasn't it.

    Chambers and Montgomery have spoiled it for no one (Indeed, without the likes of Chambers informing on THG etc, it may well have been still undetectable today) .

    Bolt is clean until proven otherwise. And given he is probably the most tested athlete on the planet, it is unlikely he will be proven otherwise.

  • Comment number 96.

    Clean fast guys outnumber dirty fast guys over the past 12 years. Bailey, Green, Powell, Gay and Bolt are the best of the lot - and all are clean so far, as far as we can tell.

    Gatlin had a bit of a drug smear, too, to put him alongside Montgomery and Chambers.

  • Comment number 97.

    When looking at Bolts superhauman achievements, and how they may never bee beaten, one need only remember that exactly the same things have been said over and over again. Indeed it was thought physically impossible for man to run a mil ein under 4 minutes until Bannister proved otherwise.

    We have, throughout sporting history seen things that simply take the event to a new level. Bob Beamon, Pietro Mienna, Michael Johnson, Johnathon Edwards, Sebastian Coe, Uwe Hohn, Flo-Jo, Sergei Bubka - Some of them still hold their resepctive records, some have lost previously "unbeatable" recrods to others. But the fact remains, every now and then, someone comes along that is just born for that event, and we are seeing that with Bolt. His records may stand for some tiem, but they *will* be beaten.

  • Comment number 98.

    The most astonishing world record in history was bob Beamon's loing jump of 8.90m. An incredible increase on the previous record. The commentator said "This guy could jump out of the pit!"

    Bolt's record will stand for maybe even longer, unless he decides to lower it himself. Then I will probably never see it lowered.

  • Comment number 99.

    When you say "every sprinting champio" you mean just the; Tim Montgomery. Oh and Dwain Chambers, but he was never a champion. I presume you have a long list of others?

    A certain Ben Johnson comes to mind. and Carl Lewis.

  • Comment number 100.

    Carl Lewis?? Guy never tested positive...why put him in the same class as Ben? For the record, I am Jamaican.


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