David Leggat on sport

David Leggat is a Herald sport writer

David Leggat: Great theatre, but wow factor missing

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Jamaica's Usain Bolt celebrating his win in the men's 100 metre final. Photo / AP
Jamaica's Usain Bolt celebrating his win in the men's 100 metre final. Photo / AP

He pranced, made funny gestures with his fingers, hooded his hands around his eyes, played to the big screen outrageously.

But if you're the fastest man who ever drew breath, the single most talismanic athlete on the planet, AND you then deliver on time you can pretty much play the clown before the entire world.

The Olympic Stadium was packed, 80,000 solid for Usain Bolt's first final yesterday. More than two million people applied for tickets, and put it this way: they weren't there for the hammer throw final.

Bolt had question marks over him going into the 100m final.

Was his mind really on the job? What about suggestions of a niggling injury in the leadup? And would his training partner, fellow Jamaican pace ace Yohan "The Beast" Blake - who had beaten the taller man in their last couple of meetings and was unbeaten this year - have the wood on Bolt?

In 9.63 seconds, "Lightning" gave his answer. He broke his Olympic record, producing the second fastest time in history - guess who has the quicker time? - and headed home the fastest collective 100m race in history.

Blake equalled his personal best, 9.75s, for silver while 2004 Games gold medallist, drug cheat Justin Gatlin, who would have soured the event had he hung on to win after his four-year ban and constant denial of any wrongdoing, was third.

Seven of the eight starters went below 10s. It was terrific theatre, and that's part of the appeal of this particular event. Machismo swagger was thick across the track at the start line.

Job done, Bolt did a lap with Blake, draped in the Jamaican flag.

At least three times he performed his archer's pose. The cameras flashed, the 25-year-old was on his stage, the place he has occupied since Beijing when he set a world best of 9.69s, which he subsequently lowered to its present 9.58s in Berlin a year later.

So fabulous race, yes, no question. But better than Beijing? To these eyes the overall quality may have been superior but the sheer wow factor in China was fractionally higher.

Why? Because Beijing was unexpected. No one really saw it coming. The crowd was simply blown away, and exhaled a giant "whoa!" at what they'd witnessed.

Yesterday was different. It was anticipated. It was a different kind of buzz.

"People can talk," the 25-year-old Bolt said afterwards. "But when it comes to championships it is all about business for me, and I brought it."

The 200m, in which he is also world recordholder and defending champion, beckons.

After yesterday no one will now doubt whether he's ready for another sprint double.

- NZ Herald

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