The Bolt blitz
By Andi Thornhill | Wed, August 08, 2012 - 12:00 AM
The pattern was set for the 100 metres final from the semi-finals.
It was clear that fire was to come after the smoke.
Justin Gatlin clocked 9.82 seconds, Yohan Blake 9.85 and Usain Bolt 9.87. These were the pick but in my opinion Bolt looked the most comfortable of the three. He answered most of the questions about his form that shrouded his entry to London. It was significant because he wasn’t totally convincing in the first round even though he appeared to jog 10.03 seconds.
Jamaican Olympic gold medallist in the women’s 400 metre hurdles
in 1996, Deon Hemmings, working as an analyst for the International Media Content (IMC) team, withheld her prediction for the final a day earlier because she wasn’t sure about Bolt’s form. She may have changed her mind after his semi-final heat. I did.
I had witnessed his thrashing by Blake at Jamaica’s Olympic Trials and left thinking he wasn’t the Bolt of four years ago. He looked sluggish and maybe distracted or both. Blake looked to be the real deal and was rightfully installed as the man to beat ahead of London.
But for all his status as World Champion, there’s no atmosphere in any sporting arena like at the Olympics. I experienced it when I attended the Atlanta Games in 1996. I had the privilege of going to France for the 1998 Football World Cup but nothing there matched up to the intensity of Olympic competition.
The question,therefore, for me about Blake was whether he could handle the build-up and the expectations placed upon his youthful shoulders, not least for his spectacular double victories over Bolt at the Jamaican Trials. Even so, he looked very calm during the semi-finals but there was bound to be more pressure in the final.
Both Bolt and Gatlin had that experience before. Gatlin was the 2004 champion in Athens and Bolt was in a different zone in Beijing. It must be said, too, that the American was the smoothest in both rounds and presented the biggest threat to the Jamaican speed merchants.
Did all of that mean you could forget the claims of Tyson Gay or even Asafa Powell? I thought so because their form didn’t seem comparable to the top three in the semi-finals. Still, this was the Olympics and everybody goes to compete. Rule nobody out!
Bolt’s other bogey was his start. I figured in my last article that once he had a good start they would only see his back. So said, so done. And to think that he clocked 9.63 seconds pulling up ten metres from the line! His back to back titles confirm him as the greatest sprinter of all time.
Blake’s second place was worthy of the heir apparent and third for Gatlin was outstanding for the comeback kid.
As I anticipated, the women’s final was going to be decided between eventual winner, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Carmelita Jetter. Fraser-Pryce announced her credentials from the Jamaica trials which she won in a year’s best of 10.73 seconds. Naturally, she would have been keen to defend the title she won in Beijing and that was the extra motivation she needed to bring her home. She did in fine style.
Notwithstanding that fellow Jamaican Veronica Campbell-Brown is a more seasoned and accomplished 200 metres runner and the defending champion to boot, I still believe it’s going to be hard to stop Fraser-Pryce from doing the sprint double.
Bank on lightning Bolt to do the same.
• Andi Thornhill is an experienced award-winning freelance journalist.
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