The Jamaican sensation, Usain Bolt, burst onto the scene about 15 months ago blazing to a 9.72-second 100-meter run and a world record. Now he’s making runs like that seem routine.
The charismatic sprinter has electrified the sports world with stunning run after stunning run. His performances and personality have made him a household name in a sport that doesn’t play well on this side of the world. But simply, everyone can understand what it means to be the fastest human to ever grace the planet.
Bolt turned 23 today, and he’s on top of the world. At the IAAF World Track and Field Championships in Berlin this past Sunday and Thursday he again made easy work of his so-called competitors. And he assaulted his own world records set a year ago in the Beijing Olympics.
The 100m record is now 9.58s and the 200m time is 19.19s. Both times shaved .11 seconds off the previous marks. To run that much faster is almost unheard of and being so young, it’s highly unlikely he has reached his peak.
For instance, the hard-luck silver medalist, Tyson Gay, ran an incredible 9.71 in the same final. It is the fastest legal time ever run by someone not named Bolt. Gay is 27, right around that prime sprinting age. If Bolt continues on a similar path of improvement to what he has currently showed, there is no telling how he’ll bend the theoretical limits of racing.
He’s winning so easily there’s no sense in even mentioning the competition. At this stage his only competitor is the clock—and it’s not much of one. We’ve sprinted past the point of uncertainty as to whether he will win. Now it’s whether anyone will actually be in the snapshot at the finish line.
Most 100- and 200-meter finals before Bolt were closely contested, often prompting photo finishes. Not anymore. Unless you have photo seconds.
So do we revel in the sheer dominance or beg for real competition? Will we continue to be excited every time Bolt breaks his own records? There is very little he can further do to surprise us aside from running under nine in the 100 or sub 19 in the 200.
Sports history suggests we tend to get bored with dynasties and dominance. We almost always like the incumbent to be upset by a new person on the scene. We like our athletes to be challenged. If not by others, then at least by themselves.
Despite the fact most of his record-setting performances have been at the biggest meets, he seems to be more motivated by beating himself. It is clear that his adversaries are not pushing him to these great times on the grandest stages.
It is unrealistic to think Bolt can break a record every time he lines up at a major meet final. Or is it? He has done that so far but even he has to have some kind of limit. And when he feels he has reached it, on to something he doesn’t dominate.
The 400. Michael Johnson still holds that record at 43.18 seconds. The current king at that distance is LaShawn Merritt. He was the Olympic champion and is the newly-crowned World champ running 44.06s today.
Bolt’s best time in the 400 is 45.28. But that was over two years ago. There’s no telling what he could do now if he were to train seriously for it. But he’d have to be prepared to not be the best right away.
That’s where the challenge lies. And if he can become the man in that field as well, we can be excited and fascinated with him all over again.