It’s Too Easy for Usain Bolt
Usain Bolt is pretty impressive.
His repeat gold medal performance in the 100 meters was amazing: He set a new Olympic record and bested a field where 7 out of the 8 runners went under 10 seconds. The top four runners ran faster than Carl Lewis ever did. And Bolt won going away, breaking away at the end.
But his performance yesterday in the 200 might have been even better.
Tuesday was the first round of the 200m finals and Usain Bolt had a first-round qualifying heat. He wasn’t up against any marquee performers and was expected to cruise. All the good runners cruise in their first qualifying heat, but for Bolt it’s too easy. He had essentially clinched the race 50 meters in. He spent the straightaway jogging and looking around.
Look how much effort Nigeria’s Noah Akwu is expending; he finished fifth and missed qualifying by four-hundredths of a second. Usain Bolt is jogging. It’s no surprise Bolt is destroying guys like Akwu, of course; he’s just 21 and will be a senior at Middle Tennessee State in the fall. But Bolt destroyed everybody, jogging to the fastest time in the first round. His pasting of his competitors in the early rounds is at a level no one else is at.
If Beijing 2008 was Bolt’s coming out party and the 2009 world championships were his coronation, then his 2012 Olympics performance is him establishing himself as the most unstoppable sprinter of all time. The king stays the king.
• In other important Usain Bolt news, the Los Angeles Times interviewed him about his Dopp kit. “I always have lotion,” he told them. “Jergens has got a lot of different kinds, so it’s usually a Jergens moisturizer.” So that’s his secret!
• I thought maybe the Americans would pick up a medal when I wrote about distance running last week. But after a few distance running finals, the U.S. has two silvers! Galen Rupp finished second behind U.K. training partner Mo Farah in the 10,000 meters on Saturday afternoon, while hot-and-cold Leo Manzano came from well back to take second in the 1500m yesterday. Manzano came back from sixth in the final straightaway to take silver; American Matthew Centrowitz was fourth.
The U.S. hadn’t won a medal in the 10k since 1964 and the 1500m since 1968. The man who got Rupp there was Alberto Salazar, who trains Rupp and Farah as part of the Nike Oregon Project (an attempt to get an American back on the podium). The Kenyans are trying to poach him, but hopefully Salazar will stay with the Americans and get the U.S. gold in 2016.
Manzano doesn’t always get out of qualifying heats in big races and he’s only 5-foot-5. He was 12th in his semifinal in 2008. But he’s known as a kicker, and when the pack stayed together for almost all of the 1500 yesterday he was able to make a mad dash to the finish line. And not just that, but Nick Symmonds and Duane Solomon are in the 800m final and three American woman are in the 1500m semifinal today. Watch out, American sprinters! American distance runners might be good again.
• I came to terms with NBC’s tragic backstory-style of Olympics coverage long ago. And, actually, in sports I don’t really understand very well (gymnastics) I actually don’t mind the weepy interludes for athletes. To an amateur viewer, the sport already seems scored at random; why not spice it up with some backstory?
But for sports I do understand, well, the NBC live streams have been a godsend. You either get the BBC announcers for track or just ambient crowd noise. And you get to pick what stream you want! I like NBC’s track announcers just fine, but the BBC announcers are excellent. Good at keeping quiet when he needs to, getting excited at the right time and always ready with an English-style quip.
• Today is the final Olympic match of Misty May-Treanor and Kerry Walsh Jennings, who have won the last two Olympics gold medals in beach volleyball and are going for a third. They take on another American pair, Jennifer Kessy and April Ross at 4 p.m. How do Walsh and May continue to compete at such an elite level? “I spell ‘pass’ 20 million times a day,” Walsh tells ESPN. “During matches it’s P-A-S-S. It sounds so silly but I’m promising you it takes the anxiety away. It’s like, ‘Why am I spelling this?’ Then, all of the sudden, you’re good.” Spelling “P-A-S-S” and Jergens moisturizer are the marks of a true champion.