Bolt Bolts To Victory In 100-Meter

Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt might have the name of a sprinter, but not the body. He is tall and lanky, and he's also sort of a clown. Bolt set a world record in the men's 100-meter dash at the Olympics on Saturday.

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ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Andrea Seabrook.

Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt lived up to his name at the Olympics today. He set a world record in the 100-meter dash. He ran a dazzling time of 9.69 seconds and it could have been faster.

NPR's Tom Goldman was at the Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing and he still can't quite believe what he witnessed.

TOM GOLDMAN: When is Usain Bolt going to get serious? Moments before the 100-meter final, a career defining race for sprinters, there was Bolt mugging on the giant stadium jumbotron as he was introduced to the enormous crowd.

Mr. USAIN BOLT (Jamaican Sprinter; Gold Medal Winner, 100-Meter Dash): That's just me. I like to have fun, just to stay relaxed before the race, and that's what I did.

(Soundbite of clicking)

(Soundbite of cheering)

GOLDMAN: He was serious as he bolted - you knew that play on words was coming -bolted from the start blocks and uncoiled his six-foot five-inch frame. With his huge rapid stride, Bolt pulled away from the pack and then got goofy again. About 15 meters from the finish line, he spread his arms wide. A couple of strides later, he slapped chest. Crossing the finish line, he turned his head toward the crowd. No, he did not pull out a newspaper and start to read it -probably because he didn't have one handy.

Al those speed sapping shenanigans and Bolt still smashed the world record he set in May by three-hundredths of a second. And what exactly was it like for silver medalist Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago, who ran a 9.89 and still got left in the dust?

Mr. RICHARD THOMPSON (Trinidadian Sprinter; Silver Medal Winner, 100-Meter Dash): I felt myself pulling away from the rest of the field and I could see him slowing down and I'm still pumping to the line.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. THOMPSON: But, you know, he's phenomenal athlete and I don't think there's any way anyone would have beaten him with a run like that today.

GOLDMAN: Going into the Olympics, there were two other men given a chance to win this race - Bolt's Jamaican teammate and former world record holder, Asafa Powell, and reigning world champion and American record holder, Tyson Gay. But the three didn't even line up against each other in the final - because Gay wasn't there.

He failed to qualify in a semifinal heat earlier in the day. Gay refused to blame a hamstring injury he suffered last month at the Olympic trials. But he only started racing again in Beijing and the rest was evident. Bolt said he missed Gay.

Mr. BOLT: I've been telling Tyson all season when I saw him that I'm really looking forward to competing with him. I told him get better because if you want to be the best you got to beat the best. And I wanted Tyson in that finals.

GOLDMAN: Chances are Bolt would've laid claim to being the best even if Gay had raced. Bolt has been on a frighteningly fast trajectory to the top. He didn't even start training seriously for the 100 until this year. He is a rarity -most 100-meter sprinters are explosively compact. Bolt is lanky and he takes enormous strides quickly.

In answering a question about what he had for breakfast Saturday, he may also have revealed a dietary secret weapon.

Mr. BOLT: I never had breakfast.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BOLT: Actually, I woke up, like, 11 o'clock and sat around, watched some TV then I had lunch. Some nuggets.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BOLT: And then I pretty much went back to my room, slept again, went back and got some more nuggets. Then I got…

(Soundbite of laughter)

GOLDMAN: We are going to assume those were chicken nuggets and not some super-octane banned drugs nuggets. It's fair to wonder, though, since sprinter Ben Johnson's infamous positive steroid test in 1988, three of the four men's Olympic 100-meter champions before Bolt have been linked to drugs. Bolt has not, and so we push aside the suspicions and marvel at this sprinting phenomenon.

And we may not be done. Still to come in Beijing is the men's 200 meters, which Bolt considers his best event - meaning cartwheeling across the finish line?

Tom Goldman, NPR News, Beijing.

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