Sport

Bolt's Olympic party may only be beginning

Monday, August 06, 2012 | 9:12 AM    

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LONDON, England (AP )— Legs churning fast, arms swinging high, Usain Bolt finally made it to warp speed a few steps past the halfway point of the Olympic 100 meters. Emerging from behind, he put clear daylight between himself and the field.

Now he was racing against the clock, not the competition.

"Then, I thought, 'World record,'" Bolt said. "But it was too late to do anything about it."

And so the Jamaican simply had to be satisfied with the second-fastest time in history — 9.63 seconds — another gold medal and, of course, the comfort of knowing he'll have another chance to rewrite the record book very soon.

Undeterred from his goal of becoming a "living legend," Bolt returns to Olympic Stadium on Monday to receive his medal. A day later, he'll begin running in his favorite race, the 200.

His victory in the 100 on Sunday against training partner Yohan Blake, Americans Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay and the rest of the star-studded field promptly and emphatically shut down all the questions about his fitness and dedication — questions that only grew louder after losses to Blake in both sprints five weeks ago at Jamaica's Olympic trials.

"At the trials, when Yohan Blake beat me, twice, it woke me up, opened my eyes," Bolt said. "It was like he come, knocked on my door and say, 'It's an Olympic year, are you ready?' I just really refocused and got everything together and came back ready."

In their first rematch, Bolt beat Blake by 0.12 seconds — a comfortable margin but hardly wide enough to ignore his countryman and training partner, who is more than three years younger and pushing him in ways few people thought possible.

When the 200 heats start Tuesday, Bolt again figures to get his biggest challenge from Blake, the runner he nicknamed "The Beast." Bolt's world record is 19.19, but Blake has the second-fastest mark at 19.25.

Blake said there was no shame in losing to a man like Bolt. And, like Bolt, he doesn't consider this Olympics anywhere near over.

"I'm not disappointed," Blake said. "Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. You never know what can happen. I think the 200 meters will be interesting."

American Wallace Spearmon should be the other prime contender in that race.

In the 100, it was Gatlin and Gay who've been crisscrossing the world, trying to convince themselves and anyone else who would listen that they stood a chance against The World's Fastest Man.

Gay, who has worked hard to recover from right hip surgery over the last year, was crying hard after the race. Inconsolable.

"I tried my best. I came up short. That's all I had," he said.

Gatlin was more moved by the occasion than sad about finishing third. The 2004 Olympic gold medalist served a four-year doping ban that kept him out of the Beijing Games and he has fought hard since his return to restore both his reputation and his form. All the while, he kept perspective about how the sprint world had changed in the time he was away.

"To be honest, I went out there to challenge a mountain. I went out there to challenge the odds. Not just myself and everything I've been through, but the legacy of Usain Bolt," Gatlin said. "I had to go out there and be fearless."

Nobody has tackled the daunting task of being a sprint champion better than Bolt.

Unlike the hardened, scowling men who dominated this sport for decades, Bolt keeps things light. His speed down the straightaway Sunday left the 80,000 fans in awe. But the biggest cheers came a few minutes later, after he'd circled halfway around the track, made a big deal of getting into position, then pretended to point that fake bow and arrow toward the sky — the now-famous "To The World" pose — a crowd-pleaser that he debuted four years ago in Beijing.

He's spoken in the past about a penchant for partying, his less-than-stellar work ethic, his love of fast food. Four years ago, he set three world records — 100, 200 and 4x100 relay — on a steady diet of chicken nuggets.

This time, before his first big race, he was back eating fast food at a chain in the Olympic village.

"It was chicken with vegetables, so it was healthy," Bolt said. "Don't judge me."

Or, judge him all you want.

He is, of course, in a sport that doesn't require much judging — only a track and a clock.

As is typical for the 6-foot-5 sprinter, the jump out of the starting block almost always takes some time. In this race, he was fifth fastest of the eight runners out of the blocks. He was racing in sixth place at about the halfway point. But he won with measurable distance between him and the second-place finisher, Blake.

"I stopped worrying about the start," Bolt said. "The end is what's important."

He's nowhere near there yet.

After the 200, there are the relays, where Jamaica suffered a blow for the 4x100 when Asafa Powell pulled up lame with an injured groin. Bolt says he won't rule out the 4x400, either. He has talked whimsically about doing the long jump some day, less so about returning to the 400 — the distance at which he used to train but really doesn't like.

He has already joined Carl Lewis as the only men to win back-to-back 100s at the Olympics. And while Michael Phelps' record of 22 medals isn't reachable for a track star, with a few more wins in London, Bolt will find himself in very rare company.

"The entire world says he's unbeatable," said Richard Thompson, who finished second to Bolt in Beijing and seventh in London.

"And right now, he is."

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