Abrahamson: A witness to history in Berlin
Sun Aug 16, 2009 By Alan Abrahamson / Universal Sports
BERLIN -- This is what it must have been like to watch Jesse Owens run here, in Olympic Stadium, in 1936.
Or to have been in Mexico City to bear witness to Bob Beamon's long jump in 1968.
This was way better than Usain Bolt just last year in Beijing, and of course that was outrageous.
This was one of those events where you see a human being do something no human being has ever done in the history of time, and in fewer than 10 seconds all that is possible in the human experience undergoes a profound transformation. Suddenly, the world can imagine something new.
Usain Bolt of Jamaica ran hard here all the way from the start to the finish in the men's 100 meters at the 2009 World Championships. He did not fool around, like he did last year at the Olympics, when he won the 100 in a world-record 9.69 seconds even though he slowed seven steps from the line.
Here it was 9.58.
No one had ever run under 9.6 before. Bolt is the only one with a legal time under 9.7, last August in Beijng.
It's unbelievable, except that it’s not. It really happened.
"It was good," Bolt said.
Tyson Gay of the United States, the 2007 world champion, went 9.71. That's the second-fastest time ever and, obviously, a new American record. That's just two-hundredths off 9.69.
And Gay wasn't close.
It's not shameful or disrespectful to say so. It's simply the truth.
"Basically, to make a long story short," Gay said, "I did my best."
Gay's best, on a sore groin -- he grimaced getting onto the dais for a post-race news conference, and grimaced again when he got up from the chair -- was simply not going to get it done.
The only question about this race was not who was going to win.
It was whether Bolt could break the record he set last August.
Bolt had been nagged this season by the after-effects of a minor car injury. His best races this year were run in atrocious weather. Meanwhile, his Jamaican team came into these championships amid the shadow of a complicated doping-related inquiry -- not, according to all reports, involving Bolt.
If these were distractions, it was by no means evident.
Instead, the way this was going to go down became evident in the semifinal heats, about 2 1/2 hours before the finals -- a sequence that underscored Bolt's physical freakishness and his mental toughness, as well as the showman's quality he brings to a sport desperately in need of a leading man to overcome the stain of years of doping scandal.
Bolt and Gay ran in separate heats.
Bolt went first.
When he was introduced, it was showtime. Here was confidence in abundance. As his name was called, Bolt put both of his index fingers to his tongue, then wiped them above his eyebrows and through his hair, preening for the camera.
All that was prelude to the real deal. He struck his "lightning bolt" pose.
The field settled into the blocks, Bolt in lane 6.
Bang. The gun went off.
Whoops. Bang-bang. False start.
Under rules that track and field's governing body, the IAAF, passed last week and that go into effect Jan. 1, 2010, Bolt would have been out, disqualified for the false start.
But this is 2009, not 2010. That first start was charged to the field. If anyone else moved too quickly on the second try, that guy would then be disqualified. Even Bolt, if it were him.
The field settled back into the blocks.
It was Britain's Tyrone Edgar in lane 7, next to Bolt.
Edgar was sent off.
The field settled in, again.
A clean start -- in which Bolt managed the best reaction time in the field.
He ran hard for 50 meters. Then he put it on cruise control and, as he did Saturday night in the quarterfinals, he started carrying on a conversation -- while still running, let's not forget -- with Daniel Bailey of Antigua & Barbuda.
Bolt's time: 9.89, fastest ever in a Worlds semifinal.
For emphasis: Bolt ran hard for only half the race, and then carried on a little chat as if this were a Starbucks in Kingston.
Gay's semifinal came a few minutes later. Clean start, clean race, Gay crossing first in 9.93, Jamaica's Asafa Powell -- a former world record-holder whose star has been significantly eclipsed by Bolt's -- in 9.95.
The semis made it abundantly clear who would be the winner in the final. But what would be Bolt's time?
As they dropped into their blocks in the final, Allyson Felix, the women's 200-meter standout, posted to her Twitter feed, "I think were [sic] about to see somethin straight silly."
Before the final here, Bolt stood in front of the blocks and wiggled his right hand, then made a zooming motion as if he were an airplane.
And then off he went.
Clean start, strong drive, hammering to the line. Bolt looked to the left and to the right ever so slightly but this time he went strong for all 100 meters.
In the stands, Prince Albert of Monaco, a former Olympic bobsledder, put his hand to his forehead in apparent disbelief -- a gesture that spoke for the many thousands in the seats around him.
The only souls who didn't seem all that fazed by what Usain Bolt had just done were Tyson Gay and Usain Bolt.
"I knew it was humanly possible for someone to run that fast," Gay said. "Unfortunately, it wasn't me."
"For me," Bolt said, "I always say: anything's possible."
Abrahamson: A witness to history in Berlin - Universal Sports
Life's tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.
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