Bolt, Jamaica smash world record in 400 relay

August 22, 2008 10:11:14 AM PDT
Three races. Three wins. Three world records. OK, so Usain Bolt won't take home eight gold medals from these Olympics, the way Michael Phelps did. That's simply because there weren't enough races.

OK, so Bolt won't go down as winning any dramatic, neck-and-neck races, the way Phelps did. That's because his only competition was the clock.

But Bolt certainly won't be overshadowed by anyone at these Beijing Games - not after wrapping up one of the most amazing performances in Olympic history, regardless of sport, by leading Jamaica to a 400-meter relay victory Friday in 37.10 seconds.

"It's wonderful," Bolt said. "You can't explain the feeling you feel after the greatest Olympics ever."

There's no other way to define it for the 6-foot-5, 22-year-old sprinter, the likes of which the world has never seen.

With Phelps back home in America, Beijing is now Bolt's world. Everyone else is just running in it.

In his finale, he ran the third leg of a blowout, a 0.96-second victory over Trinidad and Tobago that was the biggest margin in the Olympic 400 relay since 1936.

"We simply couldn't compete," said one of the second-place finishers, Marc Burns.

Nobody could.

Bolt became the first sprinter to set three world records in the same Olympics - in many ways more impressive than all the records Phelps set in the pool, because two of Bolt's marks were more than a decade old.

The final record shattered a 16-year-old mark held by Carl Lewis and his American teammates by 0.3 second.

Bolt joined Lewis, Bobby Morrow and Jesse Owens as only the fourth man to win the 100, 200 and 400-meter relay at the Olympics.

Bolt got to share this moment with Asafa Powell, the great Jamaican sprinter who held the 100-meter world record before Bolt broke it. However, Powell didn't have an Olympic medal to his name because of a penchant for big-race letdowns.

"It's something that I'm used to, you know?" Powell said of breaking records. "But being with a team, it's different."

Bolt turned an even race into a blowout about halfway through his leg, the third of four. He turned the corner, made a smooth handoff to Powell, the anchor man, and then started yelling at him - knowing the world record was in sight.

It was only a matter of time.

Just as Bolt had done when he ran 19.30 in the 200 to break Michael Johnson's mark, Powell drove hard to the finish, leaning at the line, then looking at the clock.

37.10.

"All I can say is, yo, Jamaican sprinters taking over the world," Bolt said.

When the race ended, Bolt greeted Powell. They hugged and found some Jamaican flags to wear around their shoulders as the familiar reggae music filled the brightly lit but only three-quarters-full Bird's Nest.

They danced and laughed, paying no attention to the criticism IOC president Jacques Rogge leveled at Bolt for not respecting his competition.

Maybe Rogge should be thanking Bolt. When Phelps left and gymnastics ended, the centerpiece of the Olympics became the troubled sport of track and field.

Bolt was the perfect antidote. Where Phelps was the story coming into the Olympics, Bolt exploded on them like a sports supernova. Instead of track turning into a litany of drug and doping stories, Bolt revived it and pumped more life into these games.

"To me, I'm a performer," Bolt said. "I come out here to be a performer and let the people enjoy themselves. Sometimes, it's good to enjoy yourself. This is my work, it's my job. If you don't enjoy your job, it doesn't make any sense to actually do it because you won't have any fun."

The United States didn't qualify for the final after dropping the baton in qualifying, and that eliminated any real competition for the Jamaicans. But even had Tyson Gay and Co. been on the track, it's hard to imagine anyone beating a team with Bolt and Powell.

While Bolt finished a perfect Olympics with the relay, the Jamaican women fell one race short of only the second 6-for-6 sweep by any country in Olympic sprint history - the U.S. did it in 1984 - and that was only because they beat themselves.

Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart botched the handoff between the second and third legs and Jamaica didn't finish the race, which Russia won. Still, nobody beat the Jamaicans in any sprint they finished at these games.

Counting a gold in the women's 400 hurdles, Jamaica has six gold medals with one day left. That's one more than the United States, which won its fifth when Bryan Clay wrapped up the decathlon title moments before the men's relay.

The United States, meanwhile, went 0-for-6 in sprints for the first time ever. The women's team also dropped the baton in qualifying.

In other action, Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia completed an unprecedented women's distance double by adding the 5,000 meters to her 10K victory.

In the pole vault, Steve Hooker won Australia's first medal of the track meet with a jump of 19 feet, 4 1/4 inches (5.90 meters).

In the long jump, Maurren Higa Maggi of Brazil won with a leap of 23 feet, 1 1/4 inches (7.04 meters). The silver medal went to Tatyana Lebedeva of Russia and the bronze to Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria, who only got into the final when Ukraine's Lyudmila Blonska was kicked out of the Olympics for doping.

"I could not believe that I was out, and when I heard last night I was in the final, it was my time," Okagbare said.

Before the long jump, Blonska won silver in the heptathlon. Her removal gives that to American Hyleas Fountain, with Russia's Tatiana Chernova moving from fourth to bronze.

There will be no bronze medals in Bolt's suitcase, though.

Only gold. And a special spot in Olympic history.


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