London: Why did they have to doubt him? Why did they have to make Blake the winner before the gun went off? Why did they allege that he was hiding an injury?
In the end Usain Bolt showed up at the party, cool as a cucumber, and got ready to dance.
I am not going to worry about science and I don’t listen to what science tells you, because if I did, I wouldn’t be running sub nine-second races
He did it with a luxury which seemed to suggest that it was the off-season, to become a legend in the world of athletics in 9.63 seconds.
The 100m is not a race, it is an exact science where the difference between victory and defeat is broken down to micro seconds. In between this detail, the athlete has to pack in all his potential, idiosyncrasies, muscle twitches and leg stride to make it to the finish line in the fastest time.
Everything else, like in science, is based on fact. And you can never argue against facts. Until Usain Bolt exhibited facts of his own.
Bolt rubbished science in a pre-Olympics meeting with the media saying, “I am not going to worry about science and I don’t listen to what science tells you, because if I did, I wouldn’t be running sub nine-second races.”
On Sunday night, Bolt stopped the clock at 9.63 seconds in an Olympic record time. The win, however, transmitted more emphasis than the time. This was the most talented 100m field in the history of the Olympics. Each athlete in was at the top of his game as the heats showed. Bolt was too, except that he chose to keep it away from the critics. He allowed them to speculate.
The signs, however, were evident in his first-round heat in London. Bolt turned off the switch at least 40m from the tape cantering in slightly over 10 seconds. He then cruised into the semi-finals, trotting to the line in a sub-10 second time, prompting speculation that the sprinter, who looked anything but fit to run, suddenly wasn’t the same person at all.
It appeared that a message was being sent to the field and the critics: there was plenty of gas left in the tank. Bolt looked like a genuine threat and yet he kept the sceptics guessing until the gun went off in the final.
As it turned out, it wasn’t a threat. The competition was centred around second place when the big man turned on his engine. The top slot was blocked off for Bolt, just as nobody takes the CEO’s seat in the management meeting room.
A barometer by which the sprint is measured today, the race was Bolt’s to win, or lose. “People can now say whatever they want,” he argued. “I said whatever I had to say on the track. I left it there. I execute it and that was the key. My coach told me to stop worrying about the start and focus on the mid-section of the race and that’s what I did. When it comes to proving a point, I brought it.”
He does not so much as run as provide instruction manuals to his competitors on how they can beat him if they tried: problem is, the harder they try, the more Bolt keeps disappearing into the distance.
Who is Bolt? Is he the once-in-a-lifetime prodigy that comes to earth as rarely as Halley’s Comet? The one who tells the world that without his presence athletics would be lost. That the world needs the occasional presentation of the sub-10 second theatre that he provides. That his recent defeats brought more press than all his victories put together. It was as if mankind was reminded cruelly that success comes at a price and Bolt was paying the price for his fame.
It would all culminate in the Olympics they said. Bolt would either become an icon at 27, or be sent back to the drawing board to train and wait four years in athletics’s version of purgatory until the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Rio could wait. On Sunday night, Bolt may have actually saved the sport of athletics; given it a lease of life. Running in the field was bronze medallist Justin Gatlin of the US, who once served out a ban for drugs. Gatlin is back into competitive racing but he carries the scars of everything that is negative about his trade: the distrust; the suspicion; the pessimism.
In the presence of 80,000 baying spectators, the grime was washed out by Bolt in seconds.