Sunday, August 5, 2012

Usain Bolt Strikes Lightning On London’s Brightest Stage

He is about to become the king of racing, to be precise. Taking off out of the starting block the minute the starting gun fired at Olympic Stadium, unfazed by the doubts and skeptics discounting him as the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt hauled down the track, faster than a stampede of wildebeests. Well ahead of other sprinters to defend the Olympic 100-meter title Sunday night, he spread his arms in celebration, knowing nobody was behind him to catch up and deprive him of back-to-back resplendent performances, knowing he had just claimed the shiny hardware that he wore around his neck in Beijing four years ago.

As quickly as he dusted everyone in competition, he crossed the finish line and rolled his eyes, as the world’s fastest man alive celebrated, showboated, preened and bobbed his head. It also was Bolt bobblehead night at the center of Olympic Stadium, moving and jerking his head so much to revel in the moment after seizing another opportunity to win the 100-meter gold in 9.63 seconds, the second-fastest time ever run. After weeks of doubt, Bolt won the race, as usual, and kissed the ground, performed a somersault, struck his trademark lightning bolt pose and hugged his training partner and countryman Yohan Blake, who was second matching his personal best with a time of 9.75 seconds. There was an American who finished in the spotlight, as well, but Justin Gatlin lost for the first time this season, settling for bronze in a time of 9.79 seconds. Of course, Bolt was going to win the race — and not just by a step, but dust everyone in the fastest 100-meter dash you will ever see this generation. There’s no overstatement. Bolt, born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, had the greatest footrace in history to burnish a wondrous legacy.

At age 25, he’s achieved more than the average Olympian, idolized in his native home Jamaica, including other parts of the world as people all over the universe savor his awesome, far-reaching speed, a natural born star treated like an almighty superstar worldwide. That’s what happens when a man has a signature race that we will certainly recall one day, as the incredible showman put on a breathtaking display no one will ever forget, flying faster than Carl Lewis, who is the only other sprinter to defend his 100 Olympic title. Jesse Owens? Not so sure about him… But I do know that Bolt ran the race under 10 seconds to truly become a sporting legend, maybe even one of the most attractive icons in the land of the USA, where he even featured in an ESPN Sportscenter commercial, where he’s marketable, which he is one of the world’s richest sports personalities.

Yet his sport isn’t nearly as respected as are football, basketball and baseball, the basic three Americans tend to follow, while we ignore track and field, which is only popular and eventful every four years that the summer games are in progress. Otherwise, nobody talks about Bolt, an athletic star just as famous and competitive as, say, Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, Derek Jeter, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and David Beckham. If he was born and raised in the U.S., he’d easily be seen among the greatest, but Bolt is a stud, an all-time great and is anointed all over the world, drawing all eyes as a sellout crowd of 80,000 chanted “Usain! Usain! Usain!” In these Olympics, shutting up the few who said he wasn’t fast enough to continue his dominance, Bolt, famously living up to his moniker, exploded to the finish just hours before Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence, giving his folks back home more reason to celebrate.

If you can beat Tyson Gay, the second-fastest man in the world, and also outrun Richard Thompson of Trinidad, who won silver in the event four years ago in China, then you know you are pretty damn fast. He also burned Blake, yes, his teammate who smoked Bolt twice in the 100 and 200 at the Jamaican Olympic trials, and folks wondered about Bolt’s health status that raised concern as to whether or not he could retain the men’s 100m title when indeed he secured another Olympic gold to add to his collection. From the water to the track, as we dwelled on U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps for the past week when he shattered an historic Olympic record and earned a massive total of 22 medals, 18 of them gold, now we are harping on the fastest creature to run. In a statement victory, followed by a standing ovation from an amazed crowd that witnessed a jaw-dropping, dramatic finish, he can wear the Jamaican flag around his shoulders like a superhero’s cape all he wants and can keep running on the track as if there’s a race to be ran.

From here on out, Bolt has a molded personality that best defines him, and so he won’t change anytime soon, as we’ve grown to accept his victory pose, his dancing and his obnoxious frowns and facial gestures. He is, nonetheless, entitled to do what he feels is necessary, winning again to bloom on the biggest stage and keep the Olympic cauldron burning until Sunday, thanks in large part to his fastness and finesse. The need to defy science is the least important to Bolt — running not for scientists’ curiosity of evaluating the speed of sprinters — but to compete in a sport that he trains hard for and succeeds in these days. The race, believe it or not, was collectively the fastest 100-meter race in history, when seven sprinters zipped across the finish line under 10 seconds for a track event that will forever be talked about. Soon after he left the block, running faster than the rest of the gang, he had separated himself from them and then he turned his head back and effortlessly brought it home, a familiar affair recognized in Beijing four years ago. It was a time he dominated the summer games, as well, owning the track at the Bird Nest in China, like the way he owns Olympic Stadium now to the point where it can be named after him.

Bolt Stadium?

No, he couldn’t set a world record but he didn’t really have to, and still ran like a ferocious animal. Had he ran harder, and not decided to relax, Bolt would have broken the world record easily. But he wasn’t concerned about the world record, and just cared about becoming a two-time champion in the same race, one that seems to expose his strength and no weaknesses. Better than ever, Bolt likes drama, he likes excitement, he likes the noise he makes, bringing plenty of action to a race every time he walks onto the track and sets up for a footrace that he usually wins ridiculously. The attention was more important, craving the spotlight more than he does actually winning a race? Hmmm. Maybe he does. Maybe he doesn’t.

But either way, that is, he certainly loves the limelight, which explains why he’s so flashy and is much of a showboat by his actions and facial expressions that doesn’t float too well for some who think Bolt is pompous and arrogant. Not the case whatsoever. But now, as we can see straight and clearly, he’s a competitor, an athlete who cares about his popularity and rather entertain a large crowd, win or lose. So by staying true to his word, a civilized and humanly unstoppable specimen, ran almost the perfect and fastest race.

In fact, he had to be flying as fast as a 90 mph fastball, quicker than a cheetah or dragsters. With his speed, just to ensure you, Bolt can have a second-career, once he’s done racing and start a business for public transportation that wheels people across a community in a four-wheeled wagon at high speed. Millions of people in America waited to witness the fastest man alive, Usain Bolt, as opposed to U.S. sprinters Gay and Gatlin. We adore the drama and gripping performances in sports, and with Bolt’s burst of speed, his much-hyped world records in the modern era of the 100-meter dash, attracting such a mass audience that he fascinates as he leans back with his arms slanted and the left hand pointing into the air, our folks are infatuated with Jamaica’s sprinting sensation.

If you’re not awestruck by this, then I don’t know what to tell you. It was the race of the ages, an instant classic, an Olympic games to remember.