OLYMPICS / Your Story

If the fastest man in the world is a cheat
By Nick Mulvenney
Updated: 2008-08-17 10:17


The author, Reuters journalist

Crazy Bolt takes Olympic glory with new 100m world record joyfully

World champion Tyson Gay failed to qualify for the 100 metres final at the Beijing Olympics on Saturday.

The 26-year-old American finished fifth in the second semi-final in 10.05 seconds while his Jamaican rivals, world record holder Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell, cruised through to the final as heat winners.

"I don't have any excuses, I'm pretty upset," Gay told reporters, adding that felt himself "tightening" during the race.

Gay suffered a hamstring injury at the U.S. trials last month and missed out on a place in the 200m, depriving him of a chance to repeat the sprint double he achieved at last year's world championships.

The final had long been expected to be a showdown between the three fastest men of all time, Bolt, Powell and Gay, but the two Jamaicans will now go head to head later on Saturday.

It is top of the bill and yet it is also the event most likely to disgrace the sport. If the fastest man in the world is a cheat, who cares about, or for, the rest?

The recent record does little to allay suspicion. In the last 20 years only Donovan Bailey has bettered the time of the previous Olympic winner and not been done for drugs. As for the others, the faster they have gone, the less impressed people have been.

All of which meant that today's renewal was suspect before it began; suspicions only being intensified by the times which the favourites had been recording. World record holder Usain Bolt, former world record holder Asafa Powell and world champion Tyson Gay are the three fastest men of all time. They were on course to meet for the first time.

There was heady talk of people needing to go as low as 9.6sec in order to win it, which was tantalizing, except twenty years ago Ben Johnson had gone as low as 9.7 and run quicker than anyone has managed in an Olympics since, and look what happened to him. The shadow of Lewis, Christie and Johnson lay over Bolt, Powell and Gay.

Usain Bolt of Jamaica celebrates winning the men's 100m final of the athletics competition in the National Stadium at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 16, 2008. Bolt won 100 metres gold at the Beijing Olympics in a world record time on Saturday, running 9.69 seconds to claim victory in an exhilarating showdown with his compatriot Asafa Powell. [Agencies]

In the semi-finals Bolt was away slowly, though for him it was relatively quick, and he slowed at the finish, still winning in 9.85, exactly the time the now banned Justin Gatlin had run to win in Athens. He was a tenth of a second ahead of college Champion Walter Dix in second. He looked sensational, unbeatable, scarcely credible. Imagine what he might achieve if he broke into a trot.

His path was eased when Tyson Gay, despite a quickish start, didn't even break 10 seconds and missed out on a place in the final to compatriot Darvis Patton by two hundredths of a second. And then there were two. The final of the 100 metres had become a Jamaican stand-off.

They even had a third string to their bow in Michael Frater who along with two Trinidadians, two Americans and the man from Netherlands Dutch Antilles completed the field.

As the competitors appeared hundreds of cameras flashed round the stadium to create a twinkling star effect. The backdrop was near perfect, the stadium the greatest in a Games which may be remembered as much for its architecture as its athletes.

Bolt was in lane four, high-jinksing around at the start. Powell, impassive, was three lanes to his right. In between were Thompson and Dix. This, surely, would be were the medals would be contested.

The introductions to the most explosive event in all of sport were made. Bolt smiled, pointed, and gave it the archer. Powell swung from side to side as if in a trance. The drums rolled. Bolt continued jigging; Powell remained impassive.

Silence and then: Bang! Bolt streaked away and won in 9.69. Astonishing. The record books are tattered. He smited his left breast before disco-ing round the stadium. Thompson and Dix both ran personal bests to claim silver and gold. Bolt produced the most electric 100m performance for 20 years. He very nearly snuck a look behind like a jockey astride a wonderhorse. Now the questioning will begin.


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