It definitely looks exciting when the Jamaican longlegs Usain Bolt flies over the track of the Berlin Olympic Stadium, winning the 200-metre finals by 50 metres over the entire competition.
The new superstar from Jamaica bettered the world record over the half-round (set by himself at the Olympic Games in Peking in 2008) by 0.11 seconds. Now, in some other disciplines, 0.11 seconds is certainly not much. But for sprinters, it means a world of difference.
A week earlier, Bolt had won the 100 metres, beating his great rival Tyson Gay from the USA. There, too, he bettered the world record by 0.11 seconds. Mind you, we are talking a distance where it was generally assumed that the limit had already been reached. The Jamaican finished after 9.58 seconds, rival Gay took 9.71 seconds, which meant 0.02 seconds slower than the former world record.
The time Gay ran seems rather acceptable. It is not unheard of that the best can come near the world record in their sports. Sometimes the world record is equalled, sometimes bettered a little; sometimes they are just a little slower. But record marks that spring up like mushrooms, almost pulverizing everything that was before, smell a little ratty. To be sure, Bolt has never been tested positive, nor have there ever been irregularities.
Still, it is hard to believe that the boost in a country of three million inhabitants appeared from nowhere. The Caribbean country might well have an excellent sport promotion program where children are selected early on and get special sport coaching in primary school. And no other nation can compete with the area-wide talent selection of Jamaica. But the same kind of area-wide talent selection has been practiced before, while the USA still collected championship titles on the sprint distances. What changed? Is Bolt really the Messiah of track and field whose success is based on talent and hard work alone?
I find that hard to believe. Over decades, the world records on the sprint distances were bettered once or twice a year. And then it was by a mere 0.01 or 0.02 seconds. What also smells ratty: as the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) admitted, there are no controls during the training phase in Jamaica.
Thus, all that is left for the track and field fans of the world is to hope that the races run by the Jamaican sunny boy are clean and remain so. Bolt could provide athletics with something they have been sadly missing during the last few years: the superstar, the hero of the stadium.
Personally, I would love to believe that Bolt is the greatest talent in athletics ever and that he is really the superstar needed in tracks and fields. However, it has happened too often that world champions, Olympic champions, and European champions later were discovered to be black sheep – no matter which sports we are talking. I cannot help remembering Marion Jones. When she was still actively involved, she was as domineering as Bolt is now. Today, we know the rest of the story.
In my personal opinion, the times run by Bolt are not possible. His supremacy is too obvious, the leaps of the 22-year-old are too great, and the distance between him and the other top athletes is too huge. I like the comment of Wolf-Dieter Poschmann (ZDF commentator) who, after Bolt’s 200-metre run proposed to end all comments on sports programs like the lottery program: „All information is, as always, without guarantee“…
(Translated by EG)