You could have heard a pin drop in the Olympic Stadium here in Berlin last night. The 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics held Berlin in its grip. The contenders were all lined up, the race to define the World Champion in the 100 Meter Race. The winner would claim Gold in the event, and could possibly break a World Record and claim the coveted "Fastest Man in the World" title. As for the almost 75,000 witnesses at the edge of their seats, any people left talking were shushed immediately, adding to the tension.
Pop goes the gun and out of the gate a stream of green and yellow. Jamacian Usain Bolt never looked back. The rest of the pack tried to stay somewhere close, but Bolt broke out before the 1/3 mark and left them all in his dust to set a new World Record of 9.58, shaving off .11 from his last World Record set in Bejing.
What a triumph! (couldn't find the video in English.. .but Italian, French and even Japanese. What's the deal? American TV doesn't care?)
We were fortunate to witness greatness that night. Not only Bolt, but Brit Jessica Ennis won the Women's Heptathalon, and Kiwi Valerie Vili took the Women's Shot Put with a fantastic 20.44 meter throw and the German crowd jumped to their feet and went crazy when Geri thrower Nadine Kleinert threw a fantastic 20.20 and took Silver.
Another triumph which gladdened my heart was in that same tense 100 Meter Race. American Tyson Gay came in second and broke an American World Record with his 9.71 performance, the third fastest time in history. All of this and he still ended up looking like he was jogging behind Bolt. Tyson has been complaining of groin issues and hasn't been 100% for some time now. He put in a great race and has my admiration.
The two men will go on to compete in the 200 Meter Race on Tuesday and then again on Saturday for a Relay Race. All of which Bolt has previously struck gold and walked away with in Beijing.
One thing I did notice was that Bolt wasn't as cocky in this race as he was in Bejing where he began celebrating his win before he even got to the finish line. No, there were no arms thrown up in victory before the finish, no this time his face didn't relax until several meters past the line. Good for him. I bet he got a load of crap after that last bullshit performance. This picture is of course after the race itself. Bolt and his team mate (and 3rd place winner) Asafa Powell as they do their little celebration dance for the cameras.
It is so much harder for me to get behind such cockiness. Give me an athlete who is obviously trying his best, dealing with demons, working though diversity and I am with them 100%. Last night I was rooting for the ailing Tyson Gay and he did make a fantastic showing, giving the race lots of heart. Unfortunately while he is in his prime, this Bolt guy is also there, ready to take every award out from under Gay. It's all about timing people.
Which brings us to another point. Can this be for real? Bolt is shattering, not just breaking, he is shattering records left and right. He shaved .11 seconds off of his last record which was fantastic in its own right. Is it for real, or is Bolt a product of modern chemistry? I have no doubt he has talent, but are his records going to stand the test of time?
Will we hear about a doping scandal with Bolt at the center? I hope not. I really, really hope not. I WANT to believe in this guy, but it just seems like magic. He is said to be a lazy athlete, not showing up for practice, starting training too late in the season, partying at inappropriate times, wrecking cars... how does all of this add up? I suppose that time will tell.
In my heart of hearts I hope that at the center of all these Jamaican records is a soulful and inspiring coach with the ability to see into the hearts of young athletes and know who should be pushed toward which discipline in the most efficient way. Let's hope that there isn't something more sinister going on here, no East German style doping program, designed to bring out the best in the runners, but with long-term side effects which will eventually detract from the accomplishments of the individuals. While I would really like to see Tyson Gay get his golds, I would rather it not be this way. Let's just hope, and wait.
I got my first (and only) tears during a medal awarding ceremony for Men's Shot Put. American Christian Cantwell had taken Gold with a world leading heave of 22.03 meters. As he stood up there on the pedestal I beamed with pride for my country to get their first medal. All was OK until we stood for the American National Anthem and the raising of the flag. I had tears in my eyes before "What so proudly we hailed". No, I don't think I will ever lose my heartfelt pride in my home country.
If you're in Berlin, or if you are anywhere within decent range of the Hauptstadt, do come on down to watch and cheer during the 12th IAAF World Championships. Bolt and Gay will be racing again on Tuesday and Saturday, and of course there are LOTS of other contests to be decided in the next week.