Mon, September 23, 2013

Another triple-jolt from Bolt?

By STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency


Jamaica's Usain Bolt celebrates winning the men's 200m final at the Beijing Olympic four years ago. However, Yohan Blake's surprise victories over Usain Bolt at the Jamaican nationals has ensured that the showdown in London will be a race worthy of the Games. (Dylan Martinez/Reuters/Files)

There is something about Usain Bolt almost from the moment you first meet him that is tantalizing, alluring and just a little impossible.

Even if you try you can't take your eyes off him; you can't wait to hear him speak, see what he'll do next, say next, laugh next.

Away from the swimming pool, Bolt should be the face, the legs, the chugging arms and the wondrous celebrations of the Summer Olympic Games, just as he was four years ago in Beijing. An Olympics by him, about him, with the world's fastest man looking to upstage himself with the most uncanny runs in the history of the Games.

No one had done it before -- won the 100- and 200-metre sprints back-to-back in the Olympic Games. No one has actually won the race in either the 100 or the 200 in consecutive Olympics, although the records show Carl Lewis with gold medals from 1984 and 1988 in the 100 -- the second gold medal coming via a well-documented disqualification.

But Bolt, like Secretariat before him, like Babe Ruth, like so few athletes in our lifetime or any other, can make the rest of the field seem superfluous. His intention isn't just to win gold and gold and maybe a third gold in the relay -- just like Beijing, but to do so, again, in world-record time.

"It should be a world record," the Jamaican said recently in the Czech Republic, getting ready for the summer season. "I am very happy. My coach is very happy.

"As long as I'm in great shape, nobody beats me. For me, I'm focused on what I want to do. I know what I need to do to be a champion so I'm working on it. I'm working on transition and technique and I have two times to get it right. So it shouldn't be a problem. I'm definitely on the right track."

But with a sprinter, there is always a question of health, a question of peaking at the absolute right moment, making certain you know how to get through the preliminaries cleanly and being able to do -- once every four years -- what you've never done before. The best in that world can do that -- and no one has done it better than Bolt. The one real mess-up on his resume came in last year's world championship, when he was disqualified for a false start and countryman Yohan Blake came away as champion.

"I know why I false-started," Bolt said. "It won't happen at the Olympics."

The list of those who have won the 100 and 200 metres in record time at the Olympics is many, and the list of multi-medal winners is just as long.

Britain's Linford Christie was a contender for three Olympic Games at 100 metres, winning silver, then gold then being disqualified for a false start at the 1996 Games, where Donovan Bailey won gold. Frankie Fredericks is one of the most remarkable, if not forgotten, great sprinters in history. He owns four Olympic medals from the 100 and the 200 -- all of them silver, finishing second to four different sprinters, including Christie, Bailey and Michael Johnson.

Bolt will enter London as the favourite in the 100 and the 200, with Jamaica the favourite in the 4X100-metre relay. The conditions will be different from Beijing. The heat won't be as onerous. The air won't be as scarce. The track may not be as fast. The stadium, considering the cultural difference, will be much more alive, much more aware. Athletics is a core sport in the U.K. The coverage and scrutiny of the 25-year-old Bolt, the five-time world champion, from the moment he arrives in London, to the moment he runs his last race, eats his last chicken nugget, will be intense. And Olympic wagering, which really has never factored anywhere before at the Games, will be prominent in London.

Heading to the Games, Bolt was a 8-15 choice at several betting houses to win the 100. That's a Secretariat-like bet. The rest of the field has Blake at 4-1, Tyson Gay at 6-1 and Asafa Powell at 7-1. Beijing silver medallist Richard Thompson is listed at 50-1.

Bets aside, Bolt doesn't just want to repeat his own history -- he wants to shatter it.

"I blew my mind and I blew the world's mind," he said of his Beijing performance four years ago. "I was saying 'I look cool.' I was looking at myself and saying 'That guy's fast.' ..."

He wants the world to say the same, three more races, one more time.

steve.simmons@sunmedia.ca

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