Monday, August 18, 2008

SPOTS: Insane Usain

Fourty years ago, I watched ABC announcers go wild as Bob Beamon did the impossible and soared into history as the surprise winner of the Men's Long Jump at the Olympics in Mexico City. The otherwise little-known Beamon never came close before or since that one special moment in time. He bettered the existing record by an 'impossible' amount. (I read the Sports Illustrated article later that said just that)

Since then, better training, equipment and the continued general growth in mankind, has allowed Beamon's mark to be met and bettered. That doesn't take away that one night of perfection when he showed the future of mankind.

On the weekend, I had the exact same feeling. I never wondered if Beamon was on drugs when he made his leap into history. And I have to confess, I wonder about Usain Bolt because, well, history has taught us to be wary of the 'Fastest Man in the World.' The night Ben Johnson was caught in Seoul, I believe there wasn't a clean athlete in the final. Ben, the trusting soul that he is, was the only one to get caught that night.

That said, if Bolt truly ran unaided by chemical means, that the performance he put on brought back the exact same chills that watching Beamon produced. Sure he diminished the performance by not trying to the end. Sure he slopped away the start, which might have made him a tenth of a second faster. But be ran a 9.69 fergawdsakes! The question to be asked, surely at the end of a paycheque from some rich Arab sheikh, is just how fast this next-generation kid can run? Certainly he had 9.65 within his grasp just by running through to the finish line. 9.60 without a sloppy start and finish. Does he actually have it within him to run 9.50? Lower?

Bolt is 21. Just a colt. He just started to run the race this year for some training for the race he usually runs, the 200 metres. He has set world records in the event TWICE this year. And he's doing it to pass away the time.

I know Michael Phelps put on a week-long show, setting more world records than any mere mortal should be able to. But those swim suits make me think Bolt's bolt down the backstretch takes the cake for gob-smacking, jaw-dropping moment of the Games.

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