Thursday, 21 August 2008

The Olympian II

Praise the Lord for he hath cast upon us a Lightning Bolt to save our firmament.

Yea, for the second time in four days one man has electrified the Olympic Games. Cue one Usain Bolt.

The godsend celebrates his 22nd birthday on Thursday as the undisputed head honcho of world sprinting. His scattered foes can do no more than pay tribute.

Shawn Crawford, the 200 metres defending champion, said he went up to him after the race and informed him that he was a bad (in the colloquial sense of outstanding) man.

“I told him: ‘You the man. I told him he was a bad, bad man.”

Jive and high fives aside, what we’d just witnessed in the stadium was pretty good (in the conventional sense of word).

Bolt had become the first man in 24 years to complete the 100 and 200 metres sprint double at the Olympic Games.

He’d also beaten a world record set 12 years ago by Michael Johnson at the Atlanta games.

The American Carl Lewis was the last lad to achieve the 100 and 200 metres feat. Bolt becomes the ninth man in history to do so, joining legends such as Jesse Owens.

But with all the hullabaloo, Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee has added a word of caution.

Bolt must be a bit more respectful towards his peers both in his pre and post race actions, says Rogge. Less of the pre-sprint dancing and more of the post stroll handshakes.

There seems to be a standard question from journalists covering the Olympics for a publication that we’ll call Sports Psychology Today.

“Who is Michael Phelps?” cropped up a couple of times as the American swam his way into glory during the pool party he was having.

Sure enough after trouncing his rivals for the second time in an Olympic final, we got: “Who is Usain Bolt?”

Bolt responded: “Did you see me before the race? That’s me.”

Well the message coming from Rogge is: it might be you but it’s not Olympian.

Bolt says it gets the crowd going. And he’s got a case because the intensity and atmosphere in the stadium after his two victories have been spectacular.

His wins have also underlined the demise of the United States as the dominant track power.

Jamaican women took the first three positions in the 100 metres sprint. Unprecedented that.

The American men only claimed silver and bronze in the 200 metres after two disqualifications. Crawford and Walter Dix being the beneficiaries of Wallace Spearmon and Churanda Martina’s misfortunes.

Martina lost his place after the Americans appealed Spearmon’s removal. The US delegation accepted that Spearmon had strayed from his lane. But the tapes also showed the silver medallist Martina doing the same.

And the appeal jury agreed.

Needless to say,this has not gone down well in the Dutch West Indies who were busily celebrating their first Olympic track medal.

And from having just the bronze. The United States had engineered silver and bronze.

Omayra Leeflang, the minister of sports, of the Dutch West Indies says the Americans aren’t being very Olympian about the race. But this is all about medals. China’s dominance in the table is proof of that. Lots of mileage here in the fact that they’ve eclipsed their tally in Athens four years ago.

There was a furore about having the swimming finals in the morning, apparently to satisfy the cravings of US TV networks.

The swimmers weren’t happy but they all turned up and world record after world record fell.

I’m not entirely sure whether the women’s beach volley ball was programmed for the early morning to assuage the voracious demands of US TV networks.

Even though the American pair of Kerri Walsh and Misty-May Treanor hadn’t been beaten for 107 matches, let’s say – because I’m a philanthropic kind of chap – no, the timing had nothing to do with the networks.

But let’s also state that the gold medal match was played in the driving rain (rather than the traditional sunshine associated with the sport) with the Chinese and American players in skimpy bikini and sun cap combos.

It looked ridiculous. Barely Olympian.