LONDON – They said his back hurt and that he was seeing some witch doctor in Germany.
His inconsistent starts, they claimed, were a sign that he was slowing down, and that’s why he lost in the Jamaican Olympic trials.
They said, too, that he’s been staying up until all hours, doing whatever it is that the World’s Fastest Man does in the middle of the night.
They said all this, and then Usain Bolt went out Sunday night and made lightning strike again.
Nobody repeats in the Olympics’ 100 meters, history says. Carl Lewis has gold medals in the 100 from 1984 and 1988, but one of those came by registered mail, after Ben Johnson’s disqualification.
For Bolt, repeating as Olympic 100-meter champion became the first step in his London personal crusade. Lose the 100, Bolt feared, and he would have lost all claim to being a living legend.
Lose, too, in Sunday’s 100-meter final and Bolt’s wallet – fattest ever for a track and field athlete – would likely have taken a substantial hit.
“Without a doubt, it’s hands down harder (to repeat) than anything else,” Bolt said late Sunday night, London time. “When you get to the top, and you enjoy yourself and everybody is praising you, sometimes you lose sight.
“At the trials, (Yohan) Blake beat me. And it woke me up. It was like a knock on the door, saying, ‘Usain, is it you?’”
It was and it still is, Bolt showed us Sunday night.
The eight-man field in the 100-meter final had so many gold medals and such lustrous credentials, it seemed to take the stadium PA announcer 10 minutes just to introduce all of them.
The starting block lineup included 2004 Olympic champion Justin Gatlin, 2011 world champion Blake and Tyson Gay, history’s second-fastest 100-meter runner. Bolt was one of seven in the finals who have run under 9.9 seconds.
And Bolt blew the field away, even after trailing at the sprint’s halfway point.
His time of 9.63 seconds was the fastest in Olympic history and the second-fastest ever (trailing only his world record 9.58).
Blake finished second in 9.75, with Gatlin getting the bronze medal in 9.79.
The race was so quick, the times for the third through seventh-place finishers were the fastest in history.
Bolt claimed that he didn’t even get a good start.
“My coach told me after the trials to stop worrying about my start,” Bolt said. “I could win the race in the second half of the race.
“When I got to 50 meters, I knew I was going to win.”
This time, unlike in Beijing four years ago, Bolt didn’t ease and look into the stands as he approached the finish line.
“I almost did, though,” he confessed. “But I said, ‘No, let’s just run through to the finish line.’ ”
He left in his wake a veritable mini-series of personal stories and sagas – Gatlin, who overcame a four-year drug suspension; Gay, history’s second-fastest but again denied an individual Olympic medal, and Blake, the world champion but still in Bolt’s shadow.
“He’s the Michael Phelps of our sport,” Gatlin said. “What can you say when we all run nine seconds?
“He’s a showman. I want to go out there and beat him, but today the best man won. That’s Bolt.”
He was nervous coming into Sunday, Bolt admitted.
“A lot of people doubted me,” he said. “They said I wasn’t going to win. They said I lost the trials. There was a lot of talk.”
He silenced all the talk, however, in 9.63 seconds.
Bolt feels he has to win the 200 next weekend in order to officially obtain “legend” status.
For once, he’s being modest.
He is, indeed, track and field’s Phelps, its Roger Federer, its Kobe Bryant.
He proved it Sunday.
Lightning can strike twice, as Usain Bolt showed.
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