Usain Bolt steals the Olympics show to stand apart in pantheon of sprinters

Jamaican makes history by becoming first man to win 100m and 200m in consecutive Games

Simon Turnbull
Friday 10 August 2012 10:18

So now he can claim to be a gilt-edged Olympic legend as well as the Lightning Bolt and the Clown Prince of track and field. As the phenomenon of Usain St Leo Bolt crossed the finish line in London 2012's centrepiece arena last night, he entered the history books as the first man to complete back-to-back 100m and 200m sprint doubles in the 118 years of the modern Olympics.

In the wake of the Lightning Bolt, as he flashed to victory in the 200m in 19.32sec, were his compatriots Yohan Blake and Warren Weir, completing a clean sweep of the medals for Jamaica. In historical context, Bolt also left behind Archie Hahn, Ralph Craig, Percy Williams, Eddie Tolan, Jesse Owens, Valeriy Borzov and Carl Lewis. They all completed the coveted Olympic sprint double but just in a single Games.

Owens might have done so had the gentleman to whom he performed a metaphorical two-fingered salute at the Berlin Olympics in 1936 not proceeded to pitch the world into war three years later. Still, for all of the mights and could have beens, Bolt stands apart now in the pantheon of sprinters.

The 25-year-old completed his historical mission in style, getting off to a lightning start, tearing round the bend and entering the home straight 2m clear of Blake, the training partner he calls 'The Beast'. Blake had beaten him twice over at the Jamaican trials in June, over 100m and 200m, but last night Bolt was back to something approaching his best.

Blake closed in the final 50m but at the line the 22-year-old was still 0.12sec down on his Racers Track Club stablemate. As Bolt approached the line, he turned to his left, noted that Blake was behind, and raised his left index to his lips in a shushing gesture.

It was not so much intended for the young Beast, who finished in 19.44sec, as for those who had suggested that the show-stealer of the 2008 Games might have shot his bolt.

Despite all of the travails of the 2012 build-up – the continuing battle against scoliosis , the defeat to Blake at the Jamaican trials and arriving in London at 5% short of full fitness – the man from Sherwood Content, Trelawny Parish remains the pre- eminent speed merchant on the third rock from the sun.

In the 100m in London, he had bettered his Beijing time, clocking 9.63sec – second only to the world-record figures he clocked at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, 9.58sec. Last night there was no Olympic record. Bolt won the 200m in Beijing in 19.32sec and his world record in the longer event stands at 19.19sec. Still, it was a time that only Bolt and Blake had ever bettered and equal to the world record Michael Johnson set at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

In Beijing Bolt won by half a second. The second and third men across the line on that occasion were both in the line-up again last night – both with a point to prove.

Churandy Martina – at the time representing the Netherlands Antilles but now a member of the Dutch team following the dissolution of his homeland in 2010 – and Wallace Spearmon of the United States were both disqualified for running out of their lanes. Shawn Crawford and Walter Dix, Spearmon's US team-mates, were promoted to the minor medal positions.

The Netherlands Antilles lodged a protest to the Court of Arbitration for Sport but the appeal was rejected. Still, Martina did receive the silver medal. In fine Olympian spirit, Crawford gave it to him.

Last night the flying Dutchman could only finish fifth, clocking 20.00sec dead.

Spearmon also finished outside the medals, fourth in 19.90sec. It was the first time since 1928 that the United States had just the one representative in the men's 200m final – the boycotted Moscow Games of 1980 excepted, naturally.

The bronze medal went to Weir, a 22-year-old former hurdler. He ran a lifetime best of 19.84sec. It was the first time four men had broken 20 seconds in the same race.

By the time Weir crossed the line to complete the Jamaican 1-2-3, Bolt was already pulling poses and getting ready to embark on his lap of honour. He remains, as the stadium announcer proclaimed: "The world's fastest travelling road show."

Bolt's place among the greats: Most medals in athletics

Paavo Nurmi (1920–1928)

Gold 9 Silver 3 Bronze 0 Total 12

Known as the "Flying Finn", the long-distance runner set 22 official records between 1500m to 20km in the 1920s.

Carl Lewis (1984–1996)

G 9 S 1 B 0 T 10

The US track great ruled the 100m, 200m and the long jump. In 1999, the International Olympic Committee named him "Sportsman of the Century".

Ray Ewry (1900–1908)

G 8 S 0 B 0 T 8

The American was imperious in the long jump, high jump and triple jump.

Ville Ritola (1924–1928)

G 5 S 3 B 0 T 8

The Finnish distance runner won a total of six medals at the 1924 Olympics in Paris.

Usain Bolt (2008–2012)

G 5 S 0 B 0 T 5

The Jamaican who is the fastest man in the world has won every Olympic event he has competed in since Beijing in 2008.

Evelyn Ashford (1984–1992)

G 4 S 1 B 0 T 5

American sprint specialist won three 100m relay gold medals.

Mel Sheppard (1908–1912)

G 4 S 1 B 0 T 5

Commonly known as "Peerless Mel" the American won gold medals from the 4x400m relay to the individual 1500m.

Emil Zatopek (1948–1952)

G 4 S 1 B 0 T 5

From Czechoslovakia, he was the first athlete to break the 29-minute barrier in the 10km run.

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