Coach Glen Mills is perplexed about what his champion protégé will come up with next
Usain Bolt broke the world record with such phenomenal brilliance at the Bird’s Nest Stadium that he even had time to turn his head and smile at the photo-finish camera. No one at these Games could remember a 100m race where they have seen such a picture.
Normally, the snapshot is a blur of profiles crossing the line, but that was before the boy from north-west Jamaica won an argument with his coach Glen Mills, who let him run the 100m instead of the 400m as a way of training for the 200m. Mills is the guiding force behind this young man, who turns 22 on Thursday.
Mills knows his every move. He spots mistakes that the sprinter himself does not know he has made. He sets the daily schedules, the diet, the preparation, the races. He runs the show. But even he was stumped about how Bolt took the world record. His time of 9.69sec was achieved as he slowed down with 20 metres left.
It is an area of the race that normally is crucial. At last summer’s World Championships in Osaka, Tyson Gay was just hitting top gear at that point after storming past Asafa Powell to take the title. It is probably why Mills is so perplexed about what his sprinter will do next.
"Who knows how fast he can go?" said Mills. "Obviously from the race, he can go faster than the 9.69. He was having fun in the last 20m, celebrating and breaking the world record. That’s awesome. You can read into it ...he can probably go under 9.60, but I am not good at predictions. I just love to see things unfold."
Watching the 6ft 5in frame of Bolt unfold at the start of the 100m race is something to behold. He is the tallest man to hold the world record, breaking his own mark of 9.72 with this remarkable run. He ran wearing golden spikes, with the laces on the left foot flapping about in the wind, and he is defying all the other rules of the 100m.
Ask any sprinter and they will declare that the first 30m of a race is the most important, to keep the head facing downwards and power into the drive motion to develop speed.
Bolt is virtually out of that stage by 20 metres. His long legs eat up so much ground that by halfway there is no chance of catching him. When Powell, his fellow Jamaican whose world record of 9.74 he broke in May, beat him in Stockholm last month, he did so because Bolt had a poor start.
It is the only way. By 50 metres, it becomes a procession, a freak show if nothing else, because this quiet, respectful Jamaican is the most remarkable runner to have tried the distance. As Bolt was conducting his leg-slapping celebratory routine well before the end, his rivals had their cheeks puffed and were straining every sinew.
"I could see him slowing down and I was still pumping to the line," said Richard Thompson, of Trinidad & Tobago, who was second in 9.89. "He’s a phenomenal athlete and I don’t think there’s any way anyone could have beaten him.
"A lot of people are of the belief that you have to be short, strong and stocky to be a great sprinter and Usain Bolt has defied that. He has shown that he’s a 6ft 5in sprinter and can run well and break world records. He has great starts and it’s the beginning of something else."
Walter Dix, of the United States, who was third with 9.91, said: "I am definitely not going to say he’s the epitome of the sprinter, because there is too many different kinds of sprinters that I’ve admired over the years. But the way he drives and his pattern, the way it goes together, his amazing first 40 metres... I give it to him."
If you listen to his father, Wellesley, it is nothing to do with training. It is all about the vegetables grown locally to where Bolt was born. "It is the Trelawny yam," said his dad. Not that Bolt was engaging in such a diet.
Fast man, fast food
"I never had breakfast," said the Jamaican as he recalled the start of his greatest day. "I woke up around eleven, I watched television and then I had some [chicken] nuggets for lunch. I went back to my room, I slept for two hours, I went back for some more nuggets and came to the track."
For dinner, he had the world record. Bolt is the first Jamaican and only the second sprinter from the Caribbean to win the Olympic title. Hasely Crawford, from Trinidad and Tobago, triumphed at Montreal in 1976 and this run here obliterated the Olympic record of 9.84, a world record when the Canadian Donovan Bailey won gold in Atlanta 12 years ago.
Bolt’s next stop after Beijing will be Zurich on Friday week for the Weltklasse grand prix. Clever man, that promoter. He signed Bolt up before the Games. In the space of 9.69s here on Saturday, his box-office value grew tenfold. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2008
7 months ago