Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Its party time in Jamaica. Because clearly, Lightning can strike twice.
Usain "Lightning" Bolt won his second Olympic gold medal in his second world-record time. He won the 100 meters Saturday - and set a world record - while goofing around. He won the 200 on Wednesday while running dead serious. He is a multipurpose, multievent, multimood ballistic missile. This epic performance caps what is surely a year to remember for the Jamaicans in the Olympics. With already 4 gold medals and 3 silvers, including a womens 100M that saw Jamaica obliterate the rest of the field and take gold, silver and bronze, 22 year old Usain Bolt's performance solidifies that the Jamaican track team is here to dominate, and they are here to stay.
For the first time since 1979, one man holds the world record in both the 100 and 200 meter events. He was a Jamaican then (Donald Quarrie), and he is a Jamaican now. A nation with an outsized sprinting heritage has found its biggest star yet. There can be no greater compliment for a sprinter than to be spoken of in the same exalted tones as all-time greats Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson.
"Everything came together tonight," Bolt said. "I just blew my mind. I blew the world's mind."
Far and away, the two dominant stars of these Olympics are swimmer Michael Phelps and Bolt -- two child prodigies in their sports who have come to full flower here. Yet their excellence is accompanied by such markedly different personalities.
Phelps' massive caloric intake is expressly designed to feed a voracious metabolism -- he takes his food seriously. Bolt eats chicken nuggets whenever possible, including on race days. His mellow disposition allowed him to sleep until noon, then he asked his masseuse to bring him nuggets for lunch and nuggets for dinner.
Phelps is a mask of inscrutable concentration before a race, never acknowledging any outside presence when he's introduced. Bolt can't wait to mug for the camera and the fans.
When Phelps finished his races, his emotion tended to be directly proportionate to how close they were. He truly exulted over the close ones. Bolt hasn't had a close one here, but he has reacted like Chad Johnson on his showiest day.
But by midnight Wednesday, Bolt was decompressing and showing the effects of eight races here, counting prelims.
"I want to chill out," he said. "I just want to sleep. I wish I was in sandals right now, ready to take a weekend."
He could have won the 200 in sandals. But before it's time to take a weekend, Bolt still has to anchor a 400 relay team as the Jamaicans attempt to further their takeover bid of all the speed events.
So far in Beijing, the Jamaicans have won seven medals in events of 400 meters or shorter, while the Americans have won nine. But the tiny Caribbean country leads the big, bad U.S. in gold medals 4-2, and could add several more.
"We want to prove to the world we're the best," said Jamaican 400-meter hurdles gold medalist Melanie Walker.
This medal onslaught has produced delirium in Jamaica, where sprints are the national sport. Those who had TVs watched them when Bolt ran. Those who did not listened on the radio.
"I talked to the prime minister," Bolt said. "He told me everything in Jamaica is blocked off. Everyone is in the streets."
Lightning bolts usually send people running indoors. But Lightning Bolt striking twice is a reason to party in Jamaica.
WATCH VIDEO Usain Bolt wins 200M by .66 seconds, smashes world record
- Pat Forde from ESPN edited by Chronic