Future of Jamaican track in good hands
Among the more astonishing aspects of the 'Usain Bolt Show' at the London Olympics is that we know the 'big man' is not at his best.
Just over a month ago Mr Bolt struggled -- or as one commentator graphically described it "crab walked" -- through the National Trials, coming in second best to his great friend and rival Mr Yohan Blake in both the 100 and 200 metres.
Having seen his form at the Trials, many knowledgeable track analysts concluded that Mr Bolt would be trailing Mr Blake at the finish line for both sprint events in London.
There was plenty -- even if somewhat vague -- talk of a medical problem relating to Mr Bolt's back and lower body.
His majestic Olympic Record run of 9.63 seconds in the men's 100-metre final sent the negative speculation hurtling through the window. The question on most lips yesterday wasn't whether he would win the 200 metres, but what his time would be.
As it turned out, his 19.32 seconds clocking, ahead of the onrushing Mr Blake with a season's best 19.44, was just outside Mr Bolt's own Olympic Record of 19.30 and some distance from his World Record of 19.19. And yet only Mr Bolt himself (19.19 and 19.30) and Mr Blake (19.26) have run faster over 200m than was the case yesterday.
Great showman that he is, Mr Bolt still found time to turn his head and watch Mr Blake as the latter pushed for the line. And he couldn't resist raising a 'shhhhing' finger to his lips. Love him or not, such is his persona.
Undoubtedly, Mr Bolt would have broken the Olympic Record had he chosen so to do.
His post-race comment that he felt pain in his lower back as he came down the straight perhaps explains Mr Bolt's sideways look and finger to the lip, instead of the recommended push for the line.
Or perhaps another living legend of athletics, the great American Mr Michael Johnson, has it right. Said Mr Johnson: "He (Bolt) looked at the clock, realised that he was not on world-record pace and decided to celebrate a little bit early!"
So now we await the men's sprint relay with our fingers crossed. Can Mr Bolt further enhance his status as a Legend of Athletics?
Also, now that he is being acclaimed as the greatest sprinter of all time, will Mr Bolt feel motivated enough to hang around for another four years to the next Olympics? Not just Jamaica, but the world will be hoping so.
Perhaps a percentage of that motivation will come from Mr Bolt's own teammates who followed in his wake yesterday. Mr Blake's effort was fully expected, but we are left in awe at 22-year-old Mr Warren Weir who came third to give Jamaica one, two, three on the medal podium -- unprecedented for Jamaican men at the Olympics.
Until the national trials, Mr Weir had not broken 20 seconds. His time of 19.84 yesterday represents a phenomenal improvement, showcasing yet again the extraordinary capacity of coach Mr Glen Mills to pull the very best from his charges.
We shouldn't forget that Mr Weir's wonder run followed that of Mr Hansle Parchment on Wednesday, which gave Jamaica its first Olympic sprint hurdling medal. The six-foot, five-inch University of the West Indies student got out of the blocks slowly but powered over the hurdles to grab the bronze and set a new Jamaica record of 13.12 seconds.
What, we wonder, would have happened had he left the blocks with the pack? An overriding thought as we contemplate the performances at the London Olympics of newcomers such as Messrs Parchment and Weir is that the future of Jamaican track is in good hands.