And Then There Is Usain Bolt

Goutham ChakravarthiCorrespondent IAugust 19, 2009

BERLIN - AUGUST 16:  Usain Bolt of Jamaica crosses the line to win the gold medal in the men's 100 Metres Final during day two of the 12th IAAF World Athletics Championships at the Olympic Stadium on August 16, 2009 in Berlin, Germany. Bolt set a new World Record of 9.58.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Every batsman around the world must be thanking his heavens that Usain Bolt gave up fast bowling for sprinting. At 6’5” and capable of doing the 100 meter dash swifter than I can in my car, if his bowling speeds was anywhere near his sprinting deeds he’d have been a handful!

Cricket’s loss is athletics’ gain. On Sunday in Berlin he decimated his Olympics time of 9.69 seconds by 0.11 seconds to stun the sports world. Sprint records are meant to be broken incrementally like in long jump, pole vault or high jump.

Here, within a span of 9 and half seconds, he went a generation ahead of everyone else like Jesse Owens did with his long jump leap at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. If anything, it is befitting that both should have happened at Berlin where Hitler wanted to demonstrate the superiority of Aryan race over ethnic African race.

Sample this: since Jim Hines became the first man to go under 10 seconds in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics to set the then world record, it has been broken 12 times since.

The world record time has never been bettered by more than 0.05 seconds - when Maurice Green clocked 9.79 seconds in Athens (1999) he broke Donovon Bailey’s 1996 Atlanta gold medal winning performance of 9.84 seconds by 0.05 seconds.

Ben Johnson did thrash Calvin Smith’s world record of 9.93 seconds by 0.10 seconds in Rome in 1987 only for his time of 9.83 seconds to be disallowed along with all his other achievements between 1981 and 1988 after testing positive right after winning the Seoul Olympics gold with another world record time of 9.79 seconds.

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That it took another 12 years for anyone to get to that mark of 9.79 seconds shows how difficult it is to nick a good 1/10th of a second off the world record. Bolt has now smashed his last world record of 9.69 seconds from Beijing Olympics by 0.11 seconds. It has never happened before that a sprint record is bettered by so much, at least since electronic timing came into the sport in 1977.

He is the only person to have breached the 9.7 and 9.6 seconds’ barrier. Now he says he can go under 9.5 seconds! The next fastest time ever is 9.71 seconds – Tyson Gay (0.13 seconds behind). Asafa Powell’s best is 9.72 seconds.

The 12 fastest men after Bolt are separated by a mere 0.15 seconds between them. It simply shows how much he is dominating his sport and how far ahead he is from anyone else.

It is not like Sergei Bubka and Yelena Isinbayeva bettering their pole vault world records by a centimeter or two each time, it is like bettering it by 15 centimeters at one go (Bubka took more than 10 years to better his world record by 20 cms and Isinbayeva has taken 4 years to increase her record to 5.05m after breaking the 5m barrier in London in July, 2005)!

Bolt is sprinting his way to becoming the greatest athlete of them all. 9.58 seconds! I still can’t believe it!

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