Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Usain Bolt

Jason Kottke has drawn webland's attention to this chart illustrating (originally) the majesty of Michael Johnson's record time in the 200-meter dash and now showing how great Usain Bolt is. In this follow-up post, the author, Aliotsy Andrianarivo, raises the issue of Bolt's showboating in the 100-meter dash. I have three thoughts about Bolt:

1. Many have noted the Bolt-from-the-blue appropriateness of the champion's name, to the point where we have neglected the potential of the first name. I propose this usage: "19.30? That's insane!" "No, man. That's USAIN!" Usain can describe only the most freakishly impressive things and events.

2. My brain has gotten stuck on what it must have felt like to be in the next group of finishers in those races, especially the 200. I'm thinking of the men good enough to have gone into the Olympics with some hope of winning the gold. What must it mean to train for this incredibly specific task for years, then to realize not only that you have lost but that you are one or two whole levels of performance below the best? And then to set off, in many cases, for more years of training, with every training race and competition haunted by Bolt? The psychological risk of uncompromisingly striving for greatness astounds me.

3. Can't we get a pretty good sense of how much time Bolt lost by preening in the 100? I would like very much to have someone with the right capability to judge Bolt's peak speed and estimate any lost time at the end of the race. Is this an absurd wish?