Monday, June 25, 2012

Don't blink!

The Olympic games just mesmerize me. They have been going on for a little while, since 776 BC but since 1896 in the modern era. Each one involves thousands of athletes representing over 200 countries. The worldwide audience for them now exceeds over a billion people. I first watched the LA Summer Games of 1984 as a 10 year old and I watched Carl Lewis run and jump into history. I watched the Seoul Games of 1988 and saw Ben Johnson just demolish Carl Lewis in the 100 metres only to be stripped of the gold medal and the world record just 2 days later for using anabolic steroids. The Johnson story was a top 5 sporting story of all time. I've continued to watch every Olympics since.

The most hyped and anticipated event in every Olympics is the men's 100 metres. The upcoming London Olympics race promises to be one of the most exciting races of all time. The 1991 Tokyo World Championships had the best 100 metre race I ever saw - 6 out of the 8 men ran under 10 seconds and Carl Lewis won the race in world record time after being last after the 50 metre mark. Watch this race sometime to see the definition of incredible.

There is no other sporting event (with humans) in the world that is over within 10 seconds. Any athlete wants to be Citius, Altius, Fortius - faster, higher, stronger than his/her opponent. The Olympic trials race for the 100 was run yesterday. The first 3 finishers are going to London - Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and Ryan Bailey. Gatlin won Olympic Gold in 2004 in Athens but then got suspended for 4 years in 2006 for a high testosterone level. Now 30 years old and a lot wiser for his mistake, he ran 9.80 seconds, a great tune up for London.

Tyson Gay was THE man in the 100 when he won the world championships in 2007 when he swept the sprint events. But then in 2008 a freak of nature came along and took over the world - Usain Bolt - who won gold in Beijing in an absurd time of 9.69 after he jogged for the last 20 metres. Bolt is an national hero, an icon, a 6-5 machine. No one with his height has ever done in his sport what he has done. Carl Lewis was 6-3. That was considered tall. But 6-5 with gangly legs? But once those legs start to turn over there is not a faster person on this planet. His 9.58 100 race at the 2009 world's was just a video game run. Not possible by a human. Right? Wrong!

There are 2 other Jamaican's that have a shot at upending Bolt. Asafa Powell and Yohan Blake. Powell is the veteran who brings big race savvy and experience to the biggest spotlight of them all. Blake is the up and comer who took advantage of Bolt's inexplicable false start in last year's Worlds to win the Gold medal. It really is USA v Jamaica. 3 against 3. All 6 of them may well finish in the top 6 in London, though a couple others will want to dispute this.

Who has the advantage? The lightning Bolt. Despite some back trouble last year he ran an effortless 9.79 100 a few weeks back in a Grand Prix event. He wasn't even close to being at peak form. He will peak in London and is the man to beat. He has the pedigree. He has the experience. He has the charisma. He has the motivation after the false start debacle last year. I don't think he will break the world record (even with peak conditions). I see him running about a 9.70 but that will be good enough for the Gold. I think Gatlin medals and Powell too. Tyson Gay won't be fit enough - he is coming back from hip surgery and I don't think he can be at his peak quickly enough. Blake and Bailey could threaten for medals if they run perfect races. Bolt's only real pressure comes from himself - he better not false start again - or he won't be allowed back into Jamaica.

The countdown for London began 2 years ago. The most anticpated event in the Olympics looms. Who wins? Don't blink!

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