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HOME ALONE: Usain Bolt crosses the finish line, with the pack a considerable distance behind, to win gold in the men’s 100m final.
BEIJING: This was the moment the world was waiting for, the 100-metre dash in the Olympic Games.
Usain Bolt made it a ‘no contest’ with a stunning World record of 9.69 seconds on Saturday, leaving fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell clutching a fifth place and a packed Bird’s Nest in disbelief and ecstasy.
The whole world knew that Bolt was the favourite for the duel down the straight in the Beijing Games. The 1.96-metre tall Jamaican rose to the occasion to run unchallenged and also clock a record.Dramatic finish
The dramatic finish, with Bolt starting his celebration from around 20m from the line, dropping his arms, looking on either side and eventually thumping his chest, changed the finale of the ‘great sprint showdown’ that had been built up for months.
But it was easily the most spectacular sprinting feat ever that left 91,000 spectators in awe of the man.
Two of the main characters expected to figure in that showdown never challenged Bolt. World champion Tyson Gay had crashed out in the semifinals and Powell, never the man to rise to his true stature on the global stage, had to swallow his pride for the umpteenth time.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Richard Thompson had a personal best of 9.89 and a surprise silver, while Walter Dix salvaged some pride for the U.S. by taking the bronze in another PB of 9.91.
Powell’s fifth place in 9.95 behind the little known Churandy Martina (9.93) of the Netherlands Antilles, was a terrible blow to the former World record holder who was expected to figure prominently in the all-Jamaican clash once Gay was eliminated.
As Bolt ran through the finish to celebrate, Powell looked up at the scoreboard to see where he had finished. He (0.134s), Thompson (0.133) and Dix (0.133s) all had had better reaction times than Bolt. In fact, at 0.165, Bolt had the second worst start among the eight finalists.
But then that was not totally unexpected. The 21-year-old Jamaican always knew he was not the best of starters, but he was sure of his ability once in full flow. From around 40m on, Bolt was moving into a gear that the others were not even aware of.
Once he knew he had left the others to fight a separate race, Bolt relaxed. What would have been the eventual time had he held his rhythm and arm action through the line?Awesome feat
The World record he set in New York last May, 9.72, slicing 0.2s off Powell’s previous mark, looked ordinary in front of this awesome feat.
The last time the 100m World record was bettered in the Olympics was when Canadian Donovan Bailey ran 9.84s in the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.Easing up
The incredible thing about Bolt’s finish was that he could start easing up well ahead of the finish and still clock a time of 9.69s. It was the biggest margin of victory in an Olympics 100 final in the ‘automatic era’ since Carl Lewis beat compatriot Sam Grady 9.99 to 10.19 in the Los Angeles Games in 1984.
“I wasn’t bragging. When I saw I wasn’t covered, I was just happy. I was always the fastest,” said Bolt, who should now be the firm favourite to claim the sprint double. He is the leader in the 200m (19.76s) this season.
“I could have run 9.65. Anything is possible. I aim just to win, but when I saw the replay I was amazed. I am the Olympic champion. I am just happy with that. The crowd came to see a performance,” he said.
Bolt now has three of the four best timings for the 100 in the all-time lists, 9.69, 9.72 and 9.76, all clocked this year. This was his second victory over Powell, who had beaten him in Stockholm in July.
Immediately after the finish, Bolt was on phone with the Jamaican Prime Minister.
“He said that I had made the country proud and that they were looking forward to my coming home,” he gushed. “I got a great start. I was getting good starts all the way up to the final. It was crazy, phenomenal,” said Bolt.
“He is a great athlete to run a World record in the Olympic final. I tip my hat to him,” said silver medallist Thompson.Powell’s praise
“He is the best. He could have been faster. He is very explosive. I am happy for Usain. He was definitely untouchable tonight. He is definitely the greatest,” said Powell.
“I was very shocked that I didn’t get a medal. I was very tired. My legs were dead,” conceded Powell.
Only the last two, Marc Burns (10.01) of Trinidad and Tobago and Darvis Patton (10.03) of the U.S. narrowly failed to breach the sub-10 second mark, reminiscent of the 1991 World championship final in Tokyo when Carl Lewis set a World record and five others cracked 10.Ukraine rules
Natalia Dobrynska (6733) and Lyudmila Blonska (6700) gave an impressive 1-2 for Ukraine in the heptathlon.
Dobrynska took charge of the second day’s proceedings, from the overnight leader, Hyleas Fountain of the U.S. who eventually took the bronze, by running 24.39 in 200m and then jumping 6.63m in the long jump. She further enhanced her position with a 48.60 in javelin.
Valerie Vili of New Zealand captured the women’s shot put gold with a 20.56, her first throw in the final.
Earlier, Valeriy Borchin of Russia recovered from a slow start to fetch Russia’s first Olympic gold in the men’s 20-km walk, as he beat three-time World champion Jefferson Perez of Ecuador, by 14 seconds.
Australia’s Jared Tallent won the bronze, ahead of China’s Wang Hao.Isinbayeva confident
In women’s pole-vault, favourite, two-time World champion Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia topped with a 4.60 in the qualification jumps.
Aiming to win her first Olympic gold in the 400m, Sanya Richards of the U.S. topped the qualifiers with a time of 50.54s.
In the women’s 100m second round, Jamaica spelt out a strong warning to the rest of the field, as Kerron Stewart led with a 10.98 along with compatriots Sherone Simpson (11.02) and Shelly-Ann Fraser (11.06).
The 18-year-old Pamela Jelimo of Kenya qualified for the women’s 800m final as second best, 0.03s behind compatriot Janeth Jepkosgei Busienei (1:57.28), while six-time Olympian and Sydney Games champion Maria Mutola of Mozambique also qualified with 1:58.61.
In the men’s 3000m steeplechase, Yakob Jarso of Ethiopia topped the qualifiers with a personal best 8:16.88.
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