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16 Aug 2008 14:45
Jamaica’s Usain Bolt won the men’s Olympic 100m in stunning style on Saturday, obliterating his own world record in 9,69 seconds.
He took the most coveted athletic crown with ease, soaring across the line metres clear of Trinidadian Richard Thompson in silver. American Walter Dix won bronze.
The tall, laid-back Jamaican raised his arms in triumph well before he crossed the line, sealing a remarkable transition from 200m specialist to winner of the showcase race of the Olympics.
Bolt only began racing the 100m in the past year, putting his fellow sprinters in the shade with his performances.
He first really showed his threat in May, when he set a world-record time of 9,72 in New York.
Much of Jamaica was expected to have clustered around televisions to watch the extraordinary run and will have jumped for joy.
Bolt can now set his sights on becoming the first man to win the 100m and 200m Olympic double since Carl Lewis in 1984. He will be full of confidence ahead of Wednesday’s 200m final.
The much-touted finals run-off between Bolt, former world-record holder and fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell and world champion Tyson Gay never happened.
Gay, suffering from a hamstring injury, was too slow in his semifinal to qualify for the late evening race in front of a roaring 90 000-strong crowd in Beijing’s magnificent Bird’s Nest stadium.
Powell (25), who has never won a global sprint title, finished well outside the medals.
Audiences in the US will have to wait nine hours longer than the rest of the world to see the race. US network NBC will delay the broadcast until prime time to maximise revenue after paying nearly $900-million for rights to televise the Games.
Michael Phelps earlier equalled fellow American swimmer Mark Spitz’s 1972 record of seven golds in one Olympics on Saturday after coming from behind for a fingertip victory.
Trailing Serbia’s Milorad Cavic in the 100m butterfly, he lunged forward on his final stroke to touch a 100th of a second ahead, the smallest margin possible.
Phelps, the sporting phenomenon of the Beijing 2008 Games, punched the air and screamed with joy as a capacity crowd in the Water Cube rose to hail him.
“It’s pretty cool, that’s all I can say,” said Phelps, who thought halfway he had blown it. “I am in a sort of dream world.”
On Sunday, Phelps can go one better than Spitz if he wins an eighth Beijing gold in the 100m medley relay.
“He can be called the best Olympian of all time,” Spitz told the US’s NBC television, “not because he has more gold medals than anybody but in the way he’s handled himself and in the way he’s actually won under a tremendous amount of pressure.”
Phelps now has 13 career golds, four more than anyone else in the 112-year history of the modern Games.
He clocked 50,58 seconds to Cavic’s 50,59, close enough for Serbian officials to protest, but swimming’s governing body Fina confirmed the result.
Phelps’s success is down to total focus and the perfect swimmer’s physique of large torso and huge reach on short legs. His arm span is 7,6cm more than his 6’ 4” height.
Medals for others
The only surprise was that Phelps did not win in world record time, unlike his other six title-winning swims in Beijing.
The women, though, were in record-breaking form.
Zimbabwe’s Kirsty Coventry, who had won three silvers already in Beijing, finally struck gold in the women’s 200m backstroke, bringing some rare cheer to her troubled homeland. She shaved 0,85 seconds off the previous world best.
“I’m so excited I can hear my national anthem play. I’m so proud, it’ll be exciting back home,” said Coventry.
Britain’s Rebecca Adlington also smashed a 19-year-old world record to take gold in the women’s 800m freestyle. She had won Britain’s first Olympic women’s swimming title in nearly half a century in the 400 freestyle on Monday.
Then Brazilian Cesar Cielo Filho won the men’s 50m freestyle to give his country their first Olympic swimming gold.
But the Games have had some low moments as well.
Sweden’s Greco-Roman wrestler Ara Abrahamian was stripped of his 84kg-category bronze medal after he threw it down in disgust to protest against a refereeing decision. Olympic organisers also threw him out of the Games for his medal ceremony protest.
China’s gold-medal charge paused on Saturday, with only one badminton gold coming the way of the host nation as attention switched to sports where the Asian nation does less well. In all, 27 golds were up for grabs on Saturday.
Australia picked up two gold rowing medals but lost to Britain in a thrilling sprint for the line in the men’s four. Two more medals came Britain’s way in the cycling.
China came second to the US in the medal table in Athens and would dearly like to win this year to showcase a sporting superpower status to mirror a growing economic clout.
Currently China leads the gold medal table with 27 to the US’s 16.—Reuters
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