Sunday, August 17, 2008

Lightning Bolt

All the world's a stage, they say, but for the moment the Olympic Games are the main stage where all eyes are turned. Many remarkable athletes have come into the limelight thus far this past week. Michael Phelps is a story that has gotten plenty of attention. But last night, I just saw Jamaica's Usain Bolt run the men’s 100 meter dash semifinal and I've never seen anything like it. The guy literally appeared to be lackadaisical as he loped to one hundredth of a second from a new Olympic record. OK, so he already owns the world record, so who cares, right?

The irony of a 100 meter dash runner named Bolt is readily amusing. When the starter’s gun fired the runners lunged forward as you would expect, but Bolt seemed to be hardly moving. The other guys burst off the blocks and he just bopped along. I realize he was probably exerting himself, but you sure couldn’t tell from the footage. Did the Jamaican even break a sweat? [Note: After this was written, Bolt did go on to set a new world record in the final, breaking his previous record by three hundredths of a second, easily.]

The 100 meter dash is historically equated with the moniker “World’s Fastest Human.” There was a time when twelve seconds was a world record for the men’s 100 meter dash. I remember when Bob Hayes set the record at ten seconds back in 1964, a breath taking clip. No sooner had Hayes taken gold, he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys as a receiver. Turns out he had good hands, too, which made him an asset.

Four years later a fellow named Hines took the title, and broke the ten second mark by a tenth of a second. Even superathlete Carl Lewis, who took gold medals in two Olympics, never bested Hines. It wasn’t until 1996 that this Olympic record fell, to Canadian Donovan Bailey. But I don’t ever recall any of these guys making it look so easy. As Bolt pranced past the field, he wasn’t looking ahead at the tape, he was looking around to see how everyone else was doing.

I’m not sure what the ideal height and weight is for a sprinter. I do know Bolt is a big guy, six foot five inches. But there are lots of big guys in the world. How did this one get so quick?

Anyways, it was fun seeing him run. It was supposed to be a race. It turns out to have been no contest. He’s one of a kind, I think. Age 21, a Tiger Woods of the sprinter set. We’ll have to keep an eye on this one.

Good luck, kid. Enjoy your new super hero status.

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