The gold trainers may have been traded in for orange ones, and Beijing’s Bird’s Nest exchanged for Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, but in the end, the result was exactly the same.
A gold medal, a world record, and an awe-inspiring performance.
Leaving the competition trailing in his wake, Usain Bolt added a World Championship 100m gold to his growing medal collection with a stunning time of 9.58 seconds.
Mere adjectives can perhaps not do justice to the feats Bolt seems capable of achieving.
Exactly one year earlier, Bolt had stunned the world in Beijing, grabbing gold in the most comprehensive fashion imaginable and setting a new world record of 9.69 seconds in the process.
The fact the lanky Jamaican ran that time despite slowing down over the last 30 metres to celebrate his impending victory (with his shoelaces undone), only added to the majesty and mythology of a performance few thought humanly possible.
It also led many to logically assume that, if the Jamaican ever did run flat-out for the whole 100m, a time of around 9.60 seconds would not be beyond him.
In Berlin, the 6’5” phenomenon proved that such logical assumptions were not wide off the mark.
“Back up a little bit, back up,” Bolt told the camera as he lined up before the race. “I’m ready. Are you ready?”
No one could have been.
His opponents certainly were not.
After a solid start that left him level with his rivals, Bolt soon exploded into his stride and, unlike in China, didn’t relax until he crossed the line.
Tyson Gay—who won both the 100m and 200m at the World Championships in 2005, and entered the race as the fastest man this year after setting a personal best of 9.77 seconds in Rome in July—can be credited for that, pushing Bolt closer than anyone managed in Beijing.
But even his time of 9.71 seconds, a new national record, was nowhere near the answer required to meet Bolt’s challenge.
The one remaining medal on offer was grabbed by Asafa Powell, perhaps the forgotten man of sprinting in light of his compatriot’s recent endeavours. He came home in a time of 9.84 seconds—but the history books will not remember the race because of that.
Once again, it was all about Bolt.
In the semifinals that took place earlier in the evening, Bolt cruised through the first heat in a time of 9.89 seconds. It was a comfortable sprint—perhaps jog might be a more apt description—as Bolt hit the front by 40 metres and then eased his way to the finish. An impressive performance it was, but it gave little clue as to what was waiting in store.
Following on in the second semifinal, Tyson Gay set up the long-awaited final battle between the world's two premier sprinters as he won his own heat in a time of 9.93 seconds. The 27-year-old endured one of his customary slow starts, but his late burst gave encouragement to those who thought he might challenge Bolt.
In the final though, Bolt ended those hopes.
“I was ready, and feeling good after the semifinals,” Bolt said afterwards. “I knew it was going to be a great race, and I just came out and executed. It’s a great time.”
Last year, former 400m Olympic champion Michael Johnson described Bolt’s Olympic performance as “amazing”. This year, if it’s possible, the praise was even more effusive:
“Usain Bolt is unbelievable. We’ve never seen anything like him, and I’m not sure we ever will again,” Johnson said, clearly shell-shocked. “I didn’t think I could be more shocked than I was last year. It’s absolutely mind-boggling what he can do.”
Bolt's competitors had no choice but to acknowledge the 22-year-old's superiority:
"I ran the best I could, it just wasn’t good enough tonight,” the likeable Gay said afterwards. "I believe I put in a championship performance. I’m happy with a national record.”
Seventy-three years earlier, in the same stadium, Jesse Owens did his bit to break down political and social barriers by embarrassing the Nazi regime in its own backyard. As a result, the 1936 Olympic Games has gone down in sporting history.
Bolt's effort might not have such a widespread social impact, but it will surely become equally important in making people re-evaluate the limits of human physical performance. For that, perhaps it will be remembered just as long.
Earlier in the week, Bolt suggested to reporters that a time of 9.40 seconds is the absolute limit of his physical abilities. Just over a year ago, most knowledgeable athletics commentators would have suggested such a mark might not be achieved in the next 50 years.
In light of recent events, perhaps some believe we will see such a time within the next few years.
Such is the incredible nature of Bolt's talent.
Unfortunately for us mere mortals, such a pursuit will have to wait. In the meantime, for Bolt and the rest of the world, the attention must now turn to his next event.
"I’ve got the 200m to come, so no partying for me!" the Jamaican replied after being asked how he might celebrate another historic performance.
Will another epic performance, and world record, come in that event?
Few would bet against it.
And perhaps therein lies the true majesty of Usain Bolt.
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