Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Olympic Notes, 2008

I don't want to look like I'm down on Michael Phelps because I'm not--he's great and his endorsement deal with Frosted Flakes makes me like him even more. But in a certain way, Usain Bolt's performance is even more impressive.

Bolt shattered the world record in the 100M, running it in 9.69. The last 10M he was so far ahead that he dropped his arms and started looking off to his right. I've never seen anything like it. He might have 9.50 in him.

Then tonight Bolt won the 200M by breaking Michael Johnson's record, which was once thought to be unbeatable. Bolt finished in 19.30 and I haven't seen the 100M split, but I'd be surprised if he didn't run one of those pieces under 9.20.

And what's really crazy is that we have no idea how Bolt might run the 400M. He's only 22. And because of his build he could be a singularity in the sport--a dominant big man. Bolt isn't going to get 8 medals, but I think he's the more dominant athlete and my intuition is that he's the only person who's going to challenge his records in the medium-term future. He's going to places that no one thought possible, changing the perceptions of how those two distances can be run.

And one other thing: Bolt's the first athlete I've seen at these Games who looks like he's actually having fun. Lots of it. Every minute. He's such a joy to watch after sitting through all of the tough-guy swimmers and grimly determined gymnasts. He actually looks like he's thrilled to have all of us along for the amazing ride he's on.

That's pretty great.

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