Usain Bolt entered the Olympiastadion last night sporting a T-shirt with the message "Ich bin ein Berlino." It was a reference to the name of the bear-like World Championship mascot and a twist on the words of John F Kennedy when he came to these parts in 1963 after the erection of the Berlin Wall. It is a shame the Jamaican talisman of track and field was not around in those days. He can demolish barriers like no other.
Perhaps we ought to expect the unexpected by now from the man who left us open-mouthed as he bulldozed the 100m and 200m world records at the Beijing Olympics a year ago, and who dismantled the 100m mark again last Sunday evening. But, then, Bolt did push himself all the way in the 200m final in the Chinese capital, when he eclipsed Michael Johnson's supposedly untouchable record. And he did have that car crash back in May which restricted his training for the longer event.
Hell, even Bolt himself said he "doubted" he could better his Beijing time of 19.30sec in last night's race. So did Johnson at a press conference yesterday. What we all overlooked as Bolt settled into his starting blocks was that fact that he was one year older than he had been in Beijing. And one year better.
It helped that Bolt got a lightning-quick start. He beat all seven of his rivals out of the blocks, registering a reaction time to the starter's gun of 0.133sec. All seven of his nominal rivals, that is. Bolt's only opponent thereafter was the clock just beyond the finish line. It proved to be no contest.
Blitzing round the bend with the rest of the field disappearing in his wake, he powered up the home straight and, with teeth gritted, crossed the line with the digits "19.20" frozen on the electronic display. We were still gaping in amazement when the display clicked down to 19.19.
It was another quantum leap for sprinting kind by the 6ft 5in phenomenon, matching the margin by which he had broken his 100m record last Sunday, 0.11sec. When Bolt dropped flat on his back in celebration, Berlino the mascot picked him up and the pair pulled the trademark "To the World" Bolt pose in tandem. The crowd roared, all 75,000 of them. And the clowning Lightning Bolt could hardly stop laughing.
"I definitely didn't expect that," Bolt reflected. "I was a little tired but I said, 'Let's try, because people are really looking out for this.' I said, 'It won't hurt to try.' So I tried really hard. I was running my heart out.
"I got my start right. That was the key. I showed people that my world records in Beijing were not a joke. I showed people what can be achieved with hard work and dedication."
There are those, of course, who will suspect that there might be another ingredient. "I don't get offended when people ask the question," Bolt said, when asked about drugs, "because year after year people have run fast and then tested positive. I just continue running fast and one day people will stop asking the question."
In the meantime, he can enjoy a day off on his 23rd birthday – before going for another gold in the 4x100m relay final tomorrow – and savour the achievement of becoming the first man to hold the Olympic and World Championship crowns at 100m and 200m.
In relative terms, Bolt's winning time in the 100m, 9.58sec, rates as the greater feat. It is worth 1,374 points on the scoring tables devised by the International Association of Athletics Federations to compare performances across the spectrum of track and field events. A 19.19sec clocking for 200m merits 1,359 points, equating to 9.62sec for 100m.
Still, just as we left Beijing wondering what on earth the man might do if he pushed all the way in the 100m, we can depart from Berlin pondering how fast he might run with an uninterrupted spell of training for the longer event behind him. The chances are there will be more to come from the Lightning Bolt, who already has a new moniker in mind. "If Queen Elizabeth knighted me I would get the title Sir Usain Bolt," he mused. "That sounds very nice."Reuse content