Usain Bolt destruction of the field in the men’s 100m final at the Olympic Games in Beijing was so emphatic that the 200m developed into a contest between man and clock.
Beijing was still abuzz from Bolt’s sensational show of speed, showmanship and bravado in the 100m final when he crossed the line, slapping his chest with joy as the crown of fastest man of the planet was placed firmly on his head.
If Bolt’s dominant performance wasn’t intimidating enough for his rivals, it came in an event in which he did not even specialise.
The majority of Bolt’s career had been focused on the 200m, with his explosive speed off the turn and elegant upright running style securing him junior world championship honours in 2002.
He was a consistent world-class performer at 200m until he demonstrated his versatility by breaking the 100m record in New York in May 2008.
With the 100m gold medal in the bag and Bolt apparently superior to all his rivals in the heats of the 200m, it was clear that there were two things in Bolt’s sights.
Not just a second Olympic gold, but Michael Johnson’s 200m world record. The American’s mark of 19.32secs set at the Olympic Games in Atlanta
in 1996 had accomplished almost mythical status.
Like Sebastian Coe’s 800m world record and Bob Beamon’s long jump mark from Mexico City, Johnson’s record thought likely to set to stand the test of time for decades.
Bolt’s qualifying runs in the 200m
in Beijing were laughably easy.
His semi-final time of 20.09secs was the fastest of the competition and yet he was almost trotting over the line when he finished.
On the night of the final, Bolt was again using his own unique style of relaxed preparation to focus on the race. As the cameras panned along the runners, Bolt was busy preening his hair and pointing skywards as the seconds to the start ticked down.
Once he was on the blocks though, he was deadly serious.
He sprang out of the blocks and was on the shoulders of the runners outside him within a matter of paces. As he entered the home straight, several yards clear and the gold medal all but assured, all eyes, Bolt’s included, were on the clock.
Unlike the free-flowing celebratory end to the 100m
, Bolt’s teeth were gritted, his head rolling as he neared the line.
The crowd roared and Bolt’s arms were flung aloft as the scoreboard flashed up a time of 19.30secs, a fraction below Johnson’s mark.
Bolt collapsed to the floor in a state of disbelief and shock, before reeling off a series of showstopping dances and victory poses before the enthralled Bird’s Nest crowd.