Usain Bolt looks for 'one more step' to status of legend
Jamaican sprinter begins attempt to retain 200m title as well as 100m with a comfortable display in heat that has the stadium buzzing with 'Usainity'
As the morning track and field session was about to get under way yesterday, Garry Hill, the Canadian co-announcer in the Olympic Stadium, was asked what he was most looking forward to seeing. "The latest episode of Usainity," he replied.
The Usain Bolt Show has always had an element of the circus about it. The clowning and playing to the gallery is all part of the act, as well as the kind of freakish speed show we saw on Sunday when the Jamaican national treasure shattered all doubts about his form and fitness with a 9.63sec clocking en route to the retention of his 100m crown.
Two days on, the jam-packed 80,000 crowd got 20.39sec of action. After easing round the bend in the opening heat of the 200m, Bolt could afford to slow to a relative jog in the home straight. He still finished first, 0.14sec ahead of the splendidly named Brazilian Aldemir Da Silva Junior.
"It was an easy run," the fastest man in history said when he reached the press in the trackside mixed zone area. "I'm just enjoying it. It's my favourite event."
Then it was time for some Usainity. At the press conference after the 100m final on Saturday, Bolt seemed more bothered by the madness of the London 2012 rules and regulations that had led officials to confiscate his skipping rope and rubber "stretching" band he uses to loosen up before his races. He was asked whether he had tried to smuggle another rope into the stadium today. "I'm going to do it tomorrow," Bolt replied. "I'm going to stick it under my bag – bottom of my bag or something."
Believe it or not, there was a time when the world's fastest man was such a figure of anonymity he could go about his daily business without any fuss. When the Canadian sprinter Percy Williams won the Olympic 100m title in Amsterdam in 1928 he returned to his hotel to find a huge crowd gathered outside.
He asked someone what they were doing and was told they were waiting for the Canadian runner Williams. "I stood around and waited for him too," he later recounted.
In his heat yesterday, the 21st century global sporting phenomenon of the Lightning Bolt could have skipped round the bend with his rope, waited for his rivals to appear, and still won with ease.
He will need to break into something approaching a sweat in his semi-final tonight but – false starts aside – tomorrow's final promises to be a two-horse race between Bolt and the trackside clock.
Asked in the aftermath of retaining his 100m crown whether he had succeeded in his mission to become "a legend", he said he still needed to retain his 200m title. "There is one more step," he reiterated yesterday.
There were four faster heat winners, with Alex Quinonez topping the qualifying list with a time of 20.28sec. In fact, Bolt was only the third-quickest Jamaican – behind Warren Weir (20.29sec) and Yohan Blake (20.38sec).
Blake, of course, beat Bolt at both 200m and 100m at the Jamaican trials in June and the reigning Olympic champion sees his training partner as his greatest threat. "He is the best, hands down," Bolt said. "He has shown he can do great things."
As for Blake, when asked whether he could get the better of Bolt again at the longer distance, he replied: "I'm not really focusing on beating him. I'm concentrating on running my race."
There will be British representation in the semi-finals tonight. Christian Malcolm secured his passage, finishing second in his heat in 20.59sec.
James Ellington, however, failed to make the cut. He was sixth in his race in 21.23sec.
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