BERLIN–Looking around and seeing no one close in the biggest race of the year, Usain Bolt proved again he races in a world all his own.
The Olympic champion won a huge matchup against Tyson Gay yesterday at the world championships, beating his chest as he crossed the line and watched the clock stop at 9.58 seconds. Looking at the clock beyond the finish line, Bolt even beat time itself. Running full-out in ideal conditions and against the toughest competition possible for the first time in his 22 years, Bolt blew away his own world record by a massive .11 seconds and made Gay seem slow despite setting a U.S. record of 9.71 seconds. "I got a pretty good start," Bolt said. "I was there at 20 meters and that was it."
It was the biggest increase in the record since electronic time was introduced in 1968. After Jim Hines ran 9.95 at 1968 Mexico City Olympics, it took 28 years to shave another .11 seconds, as Donovan Bailey clocked 9.84 in 1996. Bolt did the same in 12 months. Exactly one year ago at the Beijing Games, Bolt was breezing after 70 meters and set a record of 9.69. But on the deep indigo blue track of the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Gay pushed him and his own sore groin as far as he could. To no avail. Gay stayed with him over the first part but once Bolt unfurled that huge stride of his, there was no contest. Asafa Powell of Jamaica took bronze in 9.84. "Awesome," Powell said after the two Jamaicans danced a jig to celebrate. Despite the taste of defeat, Gay smiled through it. "I'm happy he got it. I'm so happy," Gay said. "I'm happy he ran 9.5 because I knew he could do it, and I know I can do it and I'm happy for him."
In the stands, the fans carrying a banner saying "Bolt–Legend" could not believe being there and to see the prediction proved right again. "It is getting there, but I don't think seasons can do it," Bolt said. "I have to keep doing it year after year." Once he sensed another gold was his along the final meters, Bolt glanced quickly to his right to check on Gay, then at the scoreboard as he crossed the line, pounding his chest when he saw the record time flash up. Bolt said he was not even in top shape, feeling better at the Olympics in Beijing last year. He was lucky on April 29 when his season was not ruined by a crash when his car skidded and flipped. He hurt his foot and it briefly slowed him. "The car accident took me off for a while," he said.
Troubled by a nagging groin pain, Gay had to cut practice on his start and it showed. He needed to get out the fastest by far but was never able to shake the Olympic champion. "My groin is barely hanging on," Gay said.
If Bolt had already strutted his confidence by playacting for hours ahead of race, the fact that he never saw Gay ahead of him early on boosted him even more. "It just wasn't enough today," Gay said. "I ran my best race I could run. I put my all into it. I got through the little groin situation and tried to put it together." The 55,000-strong crowd at the Olympic Stadium only had eyes for Bolt once they saw the time and roared its delight at the end of most anticipated race since the Olympics. The record time was hard to believe even with Bolt's knack of doing the unbelievable.
He grabbed a flag, hugged Powell, with whom he had been literally shadowboxing for fun just before the start. They wrapped themselves in the Jamaican flag, and it looked like Beijing all over again. Staying true to his showmanship, he reached out to enraptured fans, trying to get a grasp how instant sporting history physically feels. Ahead of that race, the Jamaican and American women got their own sprint rivalry going.
Kerron Stewart ran 10.92 in the 100 for the best time, leading a Jamaican team effort which placed three of their runners in the top four.
Carmelita Jeter of the United States was the only one able to split the trio, running 10.94 for second place. The final is set for Monday.
Overall, Jamaica won five of six sprint titles at the Beijing Olympics and left the U.S. team without a single gold. Now, Bolt made it 1-0 for Jamaica.