Good news, bad news. The good news is that I got to see the final of the men’s 100 meters last night. The bad news is that once again I had no luck seeing any of today’s evening session online. I saw the morning session just fine, but didn’t see one complete event of the evening session. The feed kept freezing, dropping, and was blurry when it was up. The interesting thing is that it was only on the track and field feeds. My feeds for everything else were crystal clear! I almost felt like there was a conspiracy afloat because I’ve complained about NBC’s coverage.
I’ll have another night of watching ‘til midnight, a two hour nap, and then up to watch the morning session. So I feel like I’m a good day behind – although I know all of the results. At any rate, I wanted to take a look at that 100 meters, because it was the best race ever, with the best field ever put together.
That said, Usain Bolt dominated the field. He repeated as champion, ran the second fastest time ever, and did it against the best field ever assembled. For my money that makes him the greatest championship sprinter ever. Now, before some of you start getting your underwear in a bunch, I qualified it for a reason.
One, he has had a short history in the 100 (only four years) , and like it or not sprinters like Carl Lewis, and Mo Greene did have LONG careers where they put together both solid strings of wins, and several championships of their own. There is something to be said for longevity.
Two, the game has changed significantly. Sprinters pre-2004, met much more often, and there were a lot more head to heads. Yesterday’s race marked the second time in two years that Bolt & Blake met (1-1 in that time frame); the second time in two years that Bolt & Gay met (1-1 in that time frame); and the first time that Bolt & Gatlin have every met. Significant, because Bolt is one of those athletes that seems to love the spotlight and rise to the occasion – athletes like Christine Ohuruogu and Donovan Bailey come to mind. Nothing wrong with that, if you’re going to perform best to do it when the world is watching and will remember. But the question is would he be more vulnerable if he competed more against the best on a more regular basis? My guess is he would still sport a winning record, but there would be losses against his ledger – and there is nothing wrong with that.
He is, however, unquestionably the best championship sprinter we have ever seen, and my hat off to him. Because the one thing he does in big meets, that he doesn’t do in lesser meets, and that others fail to do, is execute his race nearly flawlessly! That is what he did yesterday, and that is why he won! Bolt was out with the field. Held his drive phase. Lifted beautifully, and relaxed and let his stride take him home. No one else did all of those things, which is why no one else crossed the line first! Execution in the biggest situations is Bolt’s gift/secret to success. So what of the competition? After all, these were the best marks for 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, & 7th places! What would they have had to do to beat this man executing at his best – ie, why did they lose?
Yohan Blake, 2nd, 9.75 – Blake took silver, but like Allyson Felix is more of a 200 meter man. That may sound odd given his success in this event, but Blake does not generate great speed early. His strength is his transition when he comes up and “starts running”. He has great mid race acceleration, and a strong finish. That is what carried him to silver in this race, but the first 30 kept him from beating Bolt as he was unable to keep pace with the big man in the first half of the race. Had he been able to he may have repeated his triumph of Kingston, but Bolt faltered early in Kingston, he did not falter here.
Justin Gatlin, 3rd, 9.79 – Gatlin has the most consistent race pattern of any sprinter in the world – Bolt included. But as I said, Bolt finds his race in the big ones, and yesterday Gatlin committed a fatal flaw. He was out superbly, but came out of his drive phase too quickly. He came up, Bolt stayed down a fraction longer, but that fraction gave Bolt the acceleration he needed to burst right by Gatlin! Gatlin has a stride length nearly equal to Bolt’s, but lacks the turnover of Bolt – he has to over stride to accomplish his stride length. He was never going to catch Bolt once he went by him. And that shortened drive phase took away enough “oomph” from his transition, to allow Blake to pop by him as well.
Tyson Gay, 4th, 9.80 – Tyson had great reaction in this race, but he still lacks good start mechanics. The reaction was wasted, as he still ended up behind the others within the first few strides. Still Gay’s forte has been great mid race acceleration and a vicious close – both failed him yesterday however. After watching both his semi and the final I understood why – while his turnover is as rapid as before his surgery, he’s not exerting the same amount of force into the track as he was pre-surgery – and therefore not getting the same pop/speed back from the track. So while he looked to be working as hard he wasn’t getting the same result. That’s the difference between the man that ran 9.69 and the man that ran 9.80 – only .11 difference, but critical when your opponent is Usain Bolt.
Ryan Bailey, 5th, 9.88 – Bailey was the one man in this race that could potentially match Bolt “stride for stride” as he is 6’4” and very fluid in full stride. In order to do that however, he will have to do what Bolt does from the gun, and that is execute a strong drive phase and transition. Bailey, who had a decent drive phase in the rounds, resorted to coming up and running in the final – death against the talent level of the men that finished ahead of him. He was “chasing” the field from the gun! He would have beaten any other field on the planet, but this was not any other field. When he learns to execute the first 30 meters, he could be the challenger that Bolt needs in a major.
The rest of the field never had a chance. The only other man in the race with the credentials to make an impact was Asafa Powell and his big race history said that he was not going to be a factor, and he wasn’t. A sprinter that is dependent on his start, he was out of it by 30 meters, long before he pulled up late in the race.
So, can Bolt be beaten in a major? Only if one of the above can put it ALL together under the lights. So on to the deuce, where Bolt is arguably the favorite. I say arguably because Blake is better at that distance and he’s run within .07 of Bolt’s record. The deuce won’t be as much fun to watch as this race, but it should be a great duel!