THERE were seven other athletes in the Olympic men’s 200 metres final. I’d struggle to tell you how any of them did. There was only really two contenders in the race – Usain Bolt and the clock.
It was an extraordinary run. Even by the time he came out of the bend, Bolt was so far in front of the rest that it was hard to believe. It was like watching a Lamborghini race against seven milk floats.
There was little doubt beforehand that Bolt would win. It was just a question of whether he could beat Michael Johnson’s world record.
Johnson, an outstanding analyst for the BBC at this Games, had spent most of the build-up suggesting that Bolt would break his world record sooner or later – but perhaps not today.
Well, the Jamaican did it – by two hundredths of a second. Johnson’s record of 19.32 seconds has gone. Bolt is now the fastest man in the world at 100 and 200 metres. He is, therefore, the fastest man in the world: full stop.
When Johnson set his record at the 1996 Olympics, he was described as Superman. So what did that make Bolt?
“Superman, too,” Johnson replied. Or perhaps he said Superman II. Either way, it’s an astonishing sequel to an incredible achievement: only four days ago, Bolt broke the 100 metres world record in capturing that Olympic title. These are his Games.
But the Olympics aren’t just about glory, world records and battling against the odds. No, the Olympics wouldn’t be the Olympics without a few pratfalls too.
So a special mention to the contestants in the women’s hammer final earlier today, who managed one of the more impressive feats of collective embarrassment. Let’s just say that they might have been a bit nervous, because they were throwing the hammer everywhere. Three of the contestants managed to hurl it straight into the protective net around them with their opening throws. At one point, I genuinely started to fear for the safety of the cameraman positioned by the throwing circle.
A word, too, for all those runners who led their men’s 800 metres heats with half-a-lap to go, then got completely run out and failed to qualify for the semi-finals.
I watched all eight heats this morning, and in the first seven, the guy leading on the back straight finished somewhere around sixth. Now there’s a saying about life’s lessons repeating until you learn from them. It didn’t seem to be sinking in.
As I watched heat after heat, the same thing happened: all eight runners were bunched in a crowd for the first lap; then some numpty decided to make a break for it with 300 metres still to go; then he got chased down on the final bend – and looked genuinely surprised – before slipping down the field as if being sucked backwards through a wind tunnel, as several other faster guys raced past him.
In the final heat, Yeimar Lopez of Cuba finally showed all those numpties who had preceded him how to do it. He led down the back straight and – get this – kept going all the way to the finish line to win.
And yes, I know that even the most tactically naive 800 metres runner would still thrash me, even if I was in a car. But crikey, if I was fast enough to be able to compete at the Olympics, I might at least try learning how to run a race so I don’t burn out in the last 200 metres.
Tactics aren’t so important in the sprint races. All Bolt had to worry about was running like the wind. But my goodness, he did it to perfection – and deserves his two world records.