Columns

Bolt is bigger than Mars

Mark Wignall

Thursday, August 09, 2012    

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If the real spirit of the Olympics is to be found in the long, gruelling, 26-mile marathon run, nothing best captures its most anticipated and exciting moment like the men's 100-metre dash.

Add the 2008 multiple record holder - a young man named Usain Bolt - to the line-up, throw in Bob Marley's country called Jamaica, light up the name Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce as the repeat speedster from Beijing 2008, and then have two billion people from all areas of the globe watching it all on TV.

If you do that, it is quite likely that the sheer marvel and magnificence of US space exploration that was the Mars Rover completing its long 352 million-mile trip from Earth to the red planet Mars and manoeuvring a highly risky and complex landing would have become buried in the long, global applause as lightning Bolt claimed terra firma as his own and re-affirmed his status as a living legend.

It has never been so good for us Jamaicans. In our 50th anniversary of political Independence, the winning feats of our dear, sweet pocket rocket, Shelly-Ann, and the global man of the moment, Usain Bolt, gave us reason to feel that among all the people on this planet, we stood out, were more than quite special and deserved the global attention.

In an eruption of nationalism and many people gathered on the street openly saying, "I am proud to be a Jamaican," for the moment we packed away our troubles, basked in the glow of the worldwide attention and knew that when Bolt and Shelly-Ann aced the world in fine style, they did it for us, and in the power of their names and what their conquests gave them, they took us across that winning line with them. All of us.

When they won, we won; when they rejoiced, we went wild. When they stood atop the world, we made the trip to Mars and beyond. Where some of us had doubts, lightning Bolt erased those doubts in less than 10 seconds - 9.63 seconds to be exact.

With Shelly-Ann, she was always a sure winner. If the American Jeter was even faster, our dear, sweet Shelly-Ann would have won by a smile and a playful twinkle in her eyes.

In a good month for bad hurricanes, we blew away Ernesto, and although we did not set out to be mean-spirited, many in the region forgot that the West Indies cricket team scored a series win against New Zealand in of all places - Jamaica. Congrats, fellows, but blame Bolt, not us.

By this time the result of the women's 200 metres final will be known. As I write it is still to come and, although I hate to say it, Allyson Felix looks the best of them all. I expect Shelly-Ann to be in the medals, and of course hope that our champion Veronica Campbell will find something extra.

In addition, I will have no way of knowing the results of the men's 200 metres. It has the makings of a Jamaican clean sweep, but I am not sure that we have any space left to hold the extra helpings of pride and patriotism to come. And I expect Parchment in the 110 metres hurdles to break new ground!

Can we handle more? Oh, well, we can.

I must confess that a week before the race, although I had Bolt and Blake pegged for one and two at the finish, I had doubts about Bolt winning again and breaking the Olympic record. As he admitted at the time, he was only 95 per cent fit. So, at 95 per cent fit, he triumphs, breaks the Olympic record and leaves the others in his dust.

What would have happened had he been 100 per cent fit? Would he have made it to Mars with the Rover?

The "real big man" Bolt owes a debt of gratitude to the young Blake, and in fact a very gracious Bolt has admitted to that.

Bolt has achieved greatness in his time and like all great men, he accepted his defeat at the Jamaican trials in style, refused to make excuses and eventually triumphed where it mattered most.

Bolt hates to lose

My son Maurice, 110-metre high hurdles finalist at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, tells me a story about Bolt.

"Dad, Bolt hates to lose. At anything. In 2003 at the World Games in Paris, I was injured and he had been struck with pink-eye."

Maurice tells me that in his hotel room, he was occupying his time playing the video game Mortal Kombat.

"Usain came across and saw me playing it. 'Wiggy,' he said, 'teach me how to play that game.'" He tells me that they played right throughout the night and every time they played, he beat Bolt.

"What I noticed was that every time we played, he was getting better and better. At close to daybreak when I wanted to sleep, all he wanted to do was play the game. By that time I was barely ahead of him."

Come the 2004 Olympics and in his room Bolt approaches him for a game of Mortal Kombat.

"I could not keep up with him. He beat me almost every game. It is just his nature, that need and will to win."

If the larger-than-life feats of our Olympic athletes brought the nation together, the utterances of our political leaders were still threatening to divide us. Former PNP Prime Minister PJ Patterson told us that we had achieved much, while former JLP Prime Minister Eddie Seaga described it all as one step forward and two backwards.

In choosing not to believe either, we remained glued to our TV sets and had endless discussions about the merits of our athletes and the demerits of others. From outside of our shores there was the voice of former Olympian, the American sourpuss, Carl Lewis, crying doom on our sporting heroes and hinting that our system may involve the use of performance-enhancing substances.

After predicting that it would be impossible for Bolt to take the 100 metres again, Lewis, who was always under a cloud for drug use, had the temerity to suggest that Bolt was being aided by a drug. After Mitt Romney had made unforgivable gaffes on his arrival in England, Lewis had suggested that some people should never be allowed to leave the shores of the USA.

Well, some of those in the confines of those very shores should not be allowed to open their mouths. Too much ill-informed nonsense spills out.

observemark@gmail.com

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