Thursday, August 21, 2008

Badass of the Moment: Usain Bolt

World Record Holder Usain BoltThat's right, I said it!

Having set the World Record in both the 100 meter and 200 meter races, Usain "Lightening" Bolt would already be a contender for Badass of the Week. However it was the manner in which he won his Gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics that is most badass. And even more so considering the brief backlash he faced.

On Saturday, August 16, the 100 meter dash final was poised to be a dual between two powerhouses of sprinting. The American hopeful, Tyson Gay, failed to advanced to the final due partly to a lingering hamstring injury despite his sportsmanship telling cameras "No, I was 100%". His absence turned the attention to Asafa Powell, the former World Record holder, and the 21-year old phenom and at the time current World Record holder, Usain Bolt.

At the starting blocks Powell seemed deep in focus while Bolt was jovial and relaxed. He posed for the crowd and held back a lighthearted smile as best he could. Then they took their marks waiting for the starters pistol. Off the blocks, Powell started best but in seconds Bolt took the lead. 60 meters out he was well ahead of the pack. With 15 feet to go he was looking around for the competition and cruising victory pounding his chest eventually crossing the line with outstretched hands.

Eventually crossing the line, Bolt easily set a new 100m dash World Record with a time of 9.69s. Leaving most in awe that he eased up his pace cruising without a favorable headwind (+0.0m/s) apparently with his shoe untied and still won by such a huge margin. His performance begged the question 'what would the world record be had he ran at full speed?'
Usain Bolt breezes to World Record in 100m
Over the following day, a backlash erupted in disdain of the perceived bravado of his race. "Disrespectful to the spirit of the Olympics" it was called by commentators and officials. Bolt rebuked the alleged intent of his mid-race celebration by saying "I wasn't bragging. When I saw I wasn't covered, I was just happy."

His focus then turned to the 200m race, where on August 20th, Bolt sprinted to a new World Record there as well, posting a time of 19.30s. It seemed as if he was intent on shattering Olympic Gold medalist Michael Johnson's mark of 19.32s. He expressed himself in an interview with BBC Sports:
When asked if he planned to go all out for Johnson's world record, the 21-year-old said: "I was worried after the semis.

"But I told everybody I would leave everything on the track and I did just that.

"I've proved I'm a true champion and that with hard work anything is possible."

Bolt had been accused of jogging through the line in his heats but the Jamaican said he would run flat out in the final and he delivered on that promise with interest.

He blasted out of the blocks and was already well clear of the field going into the bend at the Bird's Nest stadium.

The Olympic 100m champion accelerated away down the straight, gritting his teeth as he chased down gold and the record that Johnson set 12 years ago in Atlanta.

Bolt seized both with ease, becoming the first man to secure the prestigious Olympic sprint double since Carl Lewis in 1984.

The 6ft 5in sprinter is also the first since compatriot Don Quarrie in 1976 to hold both sprint world records at the same time. (Source: BBC Sports)


The 100m dash and 200m dash have always been events of bravado, so Bolt's celebration was nothing new. In fact, in comparison to past sprinters he is quite understated second only to bashful Tyson Gay. Also, this sense of entitlement that Bolt should run as hard as he can all the way to the line for the good of spectators and the Olympics is quite arrogant. He doesn't owe anybody anything. No one faults the gymnasts for doing safe routines once they are in the lead. The only person Usain Bolt has to please in a race is himself. He could sit on his talent all he wants, you should be happy he competed at all. If anything he should want to do his best at all times for his own peace of mind. He seems happy having fun on the track and doing what he loves. Can he live? Essentially, if you want the record set "correctly", go do it yourself.

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