The race was over at the turn, but this time, Usain Bolt didn't clown around. No chest beating before he crossed the finish line. No mugging for the millions on TV. Believe it or not, for Bolt, that astounding 100m win Saturday night was just an afterthought. The 200m world record was the one he always wanted.
His strides lengthened, his face churned. He left nothing on the straightaway, and if he seemed to slow a bit at the end, it was because he had used everything up. The time of 19.31 seconds flashed on the scoreboard. He beat the world record by .01, a hundredth of a second (the winning time was later lowered to 19.30). Michael Johnson's sacrosanct, 12-year old 200m mark, 19.32 seconds, set in the '96 Atlanta Olympics, was wiped off the track. Bolt became the first runner since Carl Lewis in 1984 to win both the 100m and 200m races at an Olympics. He's the first to ever break world records in each. "I just blew my mind," Bolt said after the race, "and blew the world's mind."
It's official. The second week of the Olympics is a bonanza of Bolt. Two races, two world records, and one more to go the 4X100m relay on Friday. People are even mentioning him as they did a certain swimmer last week. "He added spirit to the sport," says Shawn Crawford, the 200m gold medalist in '04, who backed into a silver this time around when two other sprinters were disqualified for stepping out of their lanes. "He danced for us in the introduction, he danced for us at the end. I mean, he put on a show. To me, he's just like Michael Phelps."
A stretch? Perhaps, though it's mathematically impossible for a sprinter to win 8 golds. But like Phelps, the 6 ft. 5-in. Bolt keeps you in your seat. Start with the pre-race ritual. As the loudspeaker blared military music during introductions, Bolt, who turned 22 just hours after his race, was far from standing at attention. He slapped his chest, shimmied and smiled. He pointed to the 91,000 fans in the Bird's Nest.
Some runners are not as smitten as the spectators. "I guess there's mixed feelings among athletes," says Crawford. "Because I've walked by, and I've heard guys who are a little disappointed in the way he acts in front of the camera." The American is not one of them. "This guy has worked his tail off, everyday, on his knees, throwing up in practice," says Crawford. "He deserves to dance . . . If you think it's disrespectful, work harder, so you can be the one dancing."
It's amazing Bolt can move at all come race-time. His pre-race diet would seem rather detrimental. On the day of the 100m, Bolt said he had only eaten two helpings of Chicken McNuggets all day. It's not a nutritionist's dream selection. But why mess with the routine? "My masseuse bought my nuggets, of course," says Bolt of his intake on Wednesday. "I'm serious. He bought my nuggets, because I didn't really want to go to the cafeteria. I came straight to the track and my masseuse again bought me more nuggets. And I just had two though, because my coach said I should not eat so [many] nuggets before a race." Heck, if he ate three, Bolt might have shaved more time off of Johnson's record.
Given how quickly he has re-written track history, and the sport's varied sordid scandals with performance-enhancing drugs, questions about his diet were quickly followed by those about what else he might be taking in. That's the tragedy of track: it always pays to be skeptical. Bolt's fellow sprinters rushed to his defense. "I have no doubt [he's clean]" says Christian Malcolm of Great Britain, who finished fifth. "He enjoys the moment. That inspired Michael Johnson to run fast. Why can't that inspire Usain Bolt?" Crawford ignites. "People always assume you're cheating," he says. "It makes me think that people don't believe in hard work anymore. I mean, s--t, if you work hard, you can achieve things."
Jamaica has no doubts. On August 17, the country's women swept the medals in the 100m. Right after Bolt's historic turn, Melanie Walker won the 400m hurdles on Wednesday. "I talked to the prime minister, he told me that everything in Jamaica is blocked off," Bolt says. "Everyone is in the streets."
What's the big secret in the Caribbean? "We have some of the best coaches in the world," says Bertland Cameron, a former Jamaican Olympic sprinter. "They're qualified at all levels, in all disciplines. You name it: 100m, 50m, hurdles, high jump. We take every event seriously." The country's sports minister, Olivia Grange, beamed after the races. "We're the sprint factory of the world," she says.
It's prime export: one electric Bolt.