His work done for the day in the home-straight office of the Beijing National Stadium yesterday, Usain Bolt waited for his pal to finish his business, then strolled off towards the exit as though the only care in his world was whether to pick the shade of a palm tree or a spot in the open to sink his first can of Red Stripe on some Caribbean beach.
Shooting the breeze with Asafa Powell as the two Jamaican speed merchants negotiated the labyrinthine route beneath the main stand, the barefooted Bolt was clutching his glinting running spikes. They had the same hue as the chunk of precious metal the 21-year-old is surely destined to collect at the end of his second day at the Olympic office today.
Bolt put in a double shift inside the "Bird's Nest" shell of Beijing's showpiece arena. In his morning first-round 100 metres heat, the 6ft 5in beanpole generated just enough momentum out of his starting blocks to pull clear of the field. Then, with 40m still to go, he applied the brakes and almost jogged the rest of the way, crossing the line in 10.20sec.
That was impressive enough, but when it came to the evening quarter-final round we saw why the boy they call "Lightning" truly happens to be frightening. Only someone so frighteningly talented could get to halfway in a world-class 100m race, then switch off the engine and coast to victory, glancing nonchalantly right and left before strolling across the line in 9.92sec.
Breaking 10 seconds is still regarded as a sporting feat of some significance. Bolt did it here without breaking sweat. "I just ran the first 50 metres," he said, "then I looked around to make sure I was safe and shut it off. I'm ready for my best."
His best so far at his secondary distance – he still considers himself to be a 200m specialist – is the 9.72sec he clocked in May to relieve Powell of the world record. Today, when gold is on the line, and not just on his shoes, the chances are that Bolt will be better still. The 9.7sec barrier might not survive.
Whether Powell or Tyson Gay, the American who holds the World Championship 100m and 200m crowns, can push him is very much open to doubt.
Complaining of stomach cramps after winning his heat in 10.17sec, Powell was problem- free as he won his quarter-final in 10.02sec. Gay, hamstrung by injury since the US trials in July, looked some way short of his sharpest, pushing hard all the way for second place in his quarter, clocking 10.09sec behind Richard Thompson of Trinidad.
As for the British contingent, Simeon Williamson and Craig Pickering both exited at the quarter-final stage. Only Tyrone Edgar is flying the Union flag as Beijing steels itself for a lightning Bolt the like of which the Olympic blue riband event has never before seen.Reuse content