When Michael Johnson sprinted through the curve in the 200-meters on that fast track in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympics, it looked as if he was either going to soar into the atmosphere and into space, or just burst into flames.
At the time it was determined that Johnson , at his apex in that race, was running faster than any human had ever run. When he crossed the line and looked back to see his time flashing there on the trackside scoreboard, no one could believe it…
Johnson’s record was one that most track aficionados thought would stand for a long, long time. After all, aside from Johnson, no one had ever run 200-meters faster than 19.62. The record was not “soft” as they say. When Johnson and his gold Nikes blazed to that unthinkable record, he nailed it. There was no doubt.
But after 21-year-old Jamaican Usain Bolt came onto the scene with a 19.67 in the 200 and a world record in the 100 meters in New York City this summer, all bets were off. People knew he was good – the record makes that obvious – but how good was he?
This week everyone found out.
Not only did Bolt obliterate his record in the 100 with an unthinkable 9.69 in which he nearly stopped running before breaking the line in order to showboat, but also he took care of Johnson’s record.
Bolt ran 200-meters in 19.30 on Wednesday night in Beijing. In doing so, Bolt became the first man to win the Olympic gold medal in the 100 and 200 meters since Carl Lewis did it in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
But unlike when Johnson nearly burst into flames in Atlanta, it seems as if Bolt can go faster. No, he didn’t slow down to celebrate over the last 20 meters as he did in the 100, but at 21, the six-foot-five Bolt is just starting out. He’s been training seriously for the 100 for less than a year and the 200 is considered his strongest distance.
“Incredible,” Johnson told the Associated Press after the race. “He got an incredible start. Guys of 6-5 should not be able to start like that. It’s that long, massive stride. He’s eating up so much more track than others. He came in focused, knowing he would likely win the gold and he’s got the record.”
Bolt is young, though, and his first appearance on the International stage has come this week in Beijing. What happens when he figures out what he’s doing out there? Wait until he gets more experience.
“I’m shocked; I’m still shocked,” Bolt said. “I have been aspiring to the world record for so long.
“I got out good, I ran the corner as hard as possible and once I entered the straight told myself to keep it up, don’t die on me now.”