There will always be another. This is the eternal lesson of track and field. On a sweltering August night 12 years ago, Michael Johnson lashed the 200-meter world record to his back and seemed to drag it deep into the future. He ran 19.32 seconds, so fast that young men accepted that they would not see the record broken again in their lifetimes.
Usain Bolt was 9 years old on that night, growing up tall and skinny — “I was tall when I was little,” says Bolt — in Trelawny Parish on the north shore of Jamaica, an hour’s drive from the vacation resorts of Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. He loved to play cricket with his friends, and if he was talented, he was also a little lazy.
But one afternoon two years later, he ran too fast at a school field day and found himself on the track team, because Jamaica will compel a sprinter to sprint. Somewhere a clock began ticking, counting down the life of Johnson’s record, unseen and unknown, but inexorable.
At the age of 12, Bolt ran 52 seconds flat for 400 meters on a grass track in Manchester, Jamaica. He won the world junior 400-meter title at age 16, beating athletes who were four years older. He was impossibly precocious. “We knew what was coming,” said Bert Cameron, a Jamaican national coach who was also the 400-meter world champion in 1983.
On Wednesday night in the Olympic Stadium called the Bird’s Nest, Bolt ran 19.30 seconds to take down Johnson’s world record.
Great article in SI.
Phelps v. Spitz: By the Numbers
Number of medals: Mr. Phelps exceeded Mr. Spitz’s seven by one, with two more men’s swimming golds available. He matched Mr. Spitz’s mark of seven world records.
Head to head: In their six common events, Mr. Spitz won by an average margin of 1.58%, compared to just 0.67% for Mr. Phelps. Mr. Spitz set world records in all six, by an average margin of 0.93% compared to the pre-Olympic records. Mr. Phelps set new marks in five of the six, for an average margin 0.75% faster than the previous standard.
Across all their events, Mr. Spitz’s average winning margin was 1.47%, compared to 0.86% for Mr. Phelps. Mr. Phelps’s new records exceeded the old by 0.7%, compared to 0.87% for Mr. Spitz.
An incredible margin of victory for this incredible runner. Will anyone go faster?!
Not long ago, it was thought a time like this would not be possible – athletes had reached their peak with modern science and training programmes.
True – but you can never underestimate ‘natural talent’ the gift with which an individual is born. Science and coaches can only work with what they have got.
Will anyone run sub 9.0 in time?
Watch video here on BBC player.
Check out some interesting items here.
I love to read stories of endurance and perseverance. It is inspiring to see how individuals have dedicated themselves in pursuing a dream: To go to the Olympics and to win a gold medal.
In this case, I know Mark. We rowed together at junior level and won Henley in 1995. Back then we all dreamed. Today, it is a reality for one of us. According to Facebook he is ‘off to collect his Olympic kit.” Fantastic.
“If life had taken a different turn, Mark Hunter would now be plying his trade on the River Thames as a licensed waterman and lighterman – an ancient profession to which he was apprenticed for six years before gaining the qualification to skipper passenger and freight boats on London’s waterway.
But in six weeks’ time Hunter will be propelling a very different vessel on a very different stretch of water. The boy who grew up in London’s East End and dreamed about a life on the river is one half of the lightweight double scull that will be going for Olympic gold at the Shunyi Rowing Park in Beijing….” More.
Hunter and partner Zac Purchase are one of Britain’s best hopes for a gold medal, following and unbeaten season and Gold in the final world Cup in Poland.
The most controversial Olympiad in history, the 1936 Summer Games were held in Elstal, a small village west of Berlin. The games were awarded to the German capital over Barcelona in April 1931, before Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers Party came to power in 1933. But they quickly became a massive propaganda tool for Hitler. Under the direction of Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, Germany successfully used the games to project an image of a tolerant and peaceful nation, even as Nazi concentration camps were under construction. To reach the largest audience possible, Goebbels saw to it that the games were the first to be broadcast live on television.
Foreign Policy has a great photo essay here.
Hitler wanted the Berlin Games to prove the supremacy of the Aryan race. Germany ultimately won the most gold medals, but his plan to showcase Aryan superiority was foiled in large part by Jesse Owens’ four gold-medals—in sprint, long-jump, and the 4×100 meter relay. Drawing huge applause from the German audience, Owens’ wins enraged Hitler.
It’s difficult to keep politics from the Olympics with a history like this…Then there is also Munich 1972.
Barcelona 1992. The British Searle brothers take on the Italian Abbagnale brothers in an unforgettable race…
Posted in Memories