Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Usain Bolt — ‘I’m not in 9.5 shape but I’m working on it’

We will never see his like again”. How many sportsmen or women can we truly describe in these words?

Mohammad Ali, maybe. Pele, perhaps. Tiger Woods, who knows? Michael Jordan, probably.

Usain Bolt, almost certainly. Never has a sprinter been so much quicker than his peers. Never has a man been more perfectly designed to eat up the meters.

This week at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, the Jamaican will be going for a golden sprint treble for a third time. He did it first at the Beijing Olympics, leaving the Birds Nest stadium in shock after he smashed the 100-meter world record in 9.69 seconds. The 100-meter relay and 200-meter records followed. A year later at the Worlds in Berlin he cut his 100-meter time to 9.58. No one has got near it since.

Right now the 25-year-old is recovering from a long list of injuries and he’s trying to dampen expectations. “I am not in 9.5-second shape but I can run fast,” Bolt said on Thursday. “The world championship is the first step to becoming a legend. I am working on it. I am very focused to win.”

Bolt has been beaten in recent times by American Tyson Gay and is only the sixth-fastest in the 100-meter this year with 9.88 seconds, but you would be foolish to bet against him.

After all, the season’s fastest, Asafa Powell (9.78 sec) appears to be out of the worlds, and according to team-mate Michael Frater — Gay is injured, Michael Rodgers (US) and Steve Mullings (Jamaica) are suspended after failing doping tests, while the 2005 champion Justin Gatlin is in his return season from a four-year doping ban.

Bolt has been training hard in Daegu for over a week. There are some who say that he still needs to do a lot to eclipse the career record of the great Carl Lewis. The American won the 100 meters at 2 Olympics and 3 world championships in the 1980s and 1990s.

But crucially, Lewis could never do the double. The 200-meter was always a race too far.

If Bolt does the double in Daegu and again at the London Olympics he will be the greatest sprinter of all time.

Lamine Diack, president of the ruling body IAAF, has hailed Bolt as “arguably the most famous sports star of any sport in the world at the current time ... To have a star of that stature has enormous promotional benefits for athletics”.

So if you want to see the most exciting 9-point-something seconds in sport make sure you are somewhere near a TV on Sunday night for the men’s 100 meters final. Why? Because you may never see his like again.

One more important piece of news — for the first time at the championships, all starters will be blood tested and an additional 500 urine doping tests will be carried out on medalists, and others in the biggest IAAF measure to date to fight substance abuse.

Christy Simson, ESPN

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