BEIJING -- Arms churning high, face twisted in pain as he
sprinted toward the finish line, Usain Bolt kept glancing at the
The win in the Olympic 200 meters was a given, his second gold
medal of the Beijing Games assured.
This was now about a world record. About racing against history.
Showing just what he can do when he goes all out start to
finish, Bolt forged the greatest race ever run Wednesday night
under the hazy lights at the Bird's Nest, heaving his chest toward
the finish line -- not simply to beat someone for the gold, but to
become a part of track's glorious, and sometimes troubled, lore.
He finished in 19.30 seconds to break Michael Johnson's
12-year-old world record, one of the most venerable in the books.
"I just blew my mind and blew the world's mind," Bolt said.
Officially, he won by an astounding 0.66 second over American
Shawn Crawford, the defending Olympic champion. Crawford won the
silver medal when Churandy Martina of Netherlands Antilles, who had
finished 0.52 behind Bolt, was disqualified after a U.S. protest
for running out of his lane. "It feels like a charity case,"
Either way, it was about four body lengths, the biggest margin
in an Olympic 200.
American Walter Dix was awarded the bronze medal when the third
man across the line, teammate Wallace Spearmon, also was DQ'd for
leaving his lane.
Footnotes to history.
Bolt added the 19.30 -- 0.02 better than Johnson's old mark -- to
the 9.69 he ran the 100 four nights before when he hot-dogged the
final 20 meters to set the world record.
Everyone thought he could've done better in the 100 had he run
hard the whole way, but the 200 has always been Bolt's favorite,
the one he spent his life on, and this time he saved the
showboating for after the race.
"I've been dreaming of this since I was yea high," Bolt said.
"So it means a lot more to me actually than the 100 means."
After the unrelenting effort with a slight headwind in his face,
Bolt sprawled out on the ground, arms and legs outstretched,
basking in the roar of the Bird's Nest crowd and the glow of
becoming, quite possibly, the greatest sprinter ever.
Bolt's name now goes above, or at least beside, every great
sprinter to ever put on spikes.
He became the first man to win the 100-200 double at the
Olympics since Carl Lewis in 1984.
He gets mentioned in the same breath with Johnson, as well as
Jesse Owens and any of the other six men to complete the Olympic
100-200 double. Nobody other than Johnson had ever run a 200 in
under 19.6 and nobody had broken 9.7 in the 100 before Beijing.
Bolt has done both, the only man ever to break the world record
in both sprints in the same Olympics.
Bolt is simply a different kind of runner -- coiled power in his
6-foot-5 frame, supposedly too big for success in the 100, but
certainly built to run the 200.
"It's his anatomy," said Renaldo Nehemiah, the former world
record-holder in the 110-meter hurdles. "He's just blessed with an
uncanny frame, an uncanny quickness, a huge competitive heart. And
he is having a good time, which I think our sport sorely needs to
Indeed, track and field could use a breath of fresh air after
years of bad news, bad characters and failed drug tests that have
come close to turning the sport into second-tier Olympic viewing.
There are cynics who believe Bolt might be too good to be true
himself. But the Jamaican insists he is clean, that he plays by the
rules, that any improvement he's enjoyed over the last few months
has come courtesy of rededicating himself to his training and
staying off the dance floor he loves so much.
Before the race, track officials said he had been subjected to
11 doping tests since the beginning of 2008, including four since
July 27. None so far has come back positive.
The man whose record fell was talking about Bolt's dominance,
not his drug tests, when it was over.
"Incredible," Johnson said. "He got an incredible start. Guys
of 6-5 should not be able to start like that. It's that long,
massive stride. He's eating up so much more track than others. He
came in focused, knowing he would likely win the gold and he's got
Bolt's move out of the starting block isn't nearly as important
in the 200 as the 100, which makes the longer race more about raw
speed. But a good start certainly doesn't hurt. He got one this
time, even if it was fifth out of the eight runners. He burst out
of the blocks from Lane 5 and overcame the lag about a quarter of
the way through.
He averaged 9.65 per 100 meters -- faster than his 4-day-old
record in the 100.
Bolt won the race on the eve of his 22nd birthday and a version
of "Happy Birthday" played over the public-address system as he
took off his gold shoes and wrapped the Jamaican flag around his
shoulders like a scarf.
He did another hip-swiveling dance, then raised his hands and
pointed toward the scoreboard. A little later, he posed near the
trackside clock -- the traditional picture that all world
record-setters take. Bolt now has three of them -- this, the 100
from Saturday and the picture he took in New York in May when he
broke the 100 record the first time.
"You're back there giving it everything you've got - it's
brutal," said Kim Collins, the 2003 world champ who finished
sixth. "He's doing it and making it look so simple. Michael
Johnson did it, and it didn't look that easy."
It sparked a tremendous celebration in Jamaica, which improved
to 3-for-3 in Olympic sprints, including Shelly-Ann Fraser's win in
the women's 100 on Sunday.
There was more for the island country to be happy about
Shortly after Bolt finished, Jamaican Melaine Walker won the
women's 400-meter hurdles in an Olympic-record 52.64, finishing
ahead of American Sheena Tosta.
More than an hour later, in a nearly empty Bird's Nest, the
struggling American team -- the team with only three gold medals so
far -- took another blow when Brad Walker, the reigning pole vault
world champion, didn't reach the final.
All of that was mere filler on this night, though.
And while Michael Phelps may be The Story of these Olympics with
his swimming gold medals, Bolt became the breakout superstar in his
own right with double world records.
"I can't, I won't compare myself with Michael Phelps," Bolt
said. "I'm on the track; he's in the water. We can't compare too
much. He's the best in what he do."
So is Bolt, and his sheer dominance in the most basic tests of
speed will not soon be surpassed.
Unless, of course, he does it himself.
"As he gets older, physically more mature, he can only get
faster," Nehemiah said.
Who would be surprised?