Bolt's 9.72 blasts 100-meter world record
1 June 2008
By Elliot Denman
The archives of track and field reveal episode after episode of world record performances achieved in the light air that has often followed atmospheric disturbances.
Mike Powell's 8.95 long jump at Tokyo in 1991, and Bob Beamon's 8.90 long jump and Lee Evans' 43.86 400 meters, both at Mexico City in 1968, for examples, were notched in the aftermath of lightning storms.
So, when action in the Reebok Grand Prix Meet at Icahn Stadium on Randall's Island Saturday night was postponed for some 40 minutes by predictions of impending lightning, some historians at the stadium foresaw similar atmospheric opportunities when competition resumed.
The lightning never did touch down at Icahn Stadium but the most appropriately-named Usain Bolt surely did.
The 6-foot-3, 21-year-old Jamaican had been considered a rising star of the sprinting world since his glory days in the junior ranks, but he often fell short of expectations. This time, Bolt got it all right and scorched to a 9.72-second triumph in the 100-meter dash (with a helpful, but still-legal, wind of 1.7 meters per second at his back).
All at once in that brief time spell, he displaced fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell (who ran 9.74 at Rieti, Italy, on September 9) as the world record holder, relegated American rival Tyson Gay (whose 9.85 won the gold medal at the 2007 World Championships gold medal in Osaka) to underdog status, and piled heaps of new pressure on his lanky shoulders heading into the run-up to the Beijing Olympic games.
Gay settled for second place this time in 9.84, never a real threat to overhaul Bolt, who'd led the race out of the starting blocks and stayed there throughout.
"All credit to Bolt; this was his day, but I don't think it changes anything," stiff-upper-lipped Gay afterward.
Bolt, who opened eyes with his 9.76-victory at home in Kingston on May 3 (then second best in track annals), was not buying into his newfound Olympic favorite's status, either.
"This was just one race," he reminded. "A lot can happen between now and Beijing. This wasn't the Olympics, not yet."
He also emphasized that 200 meters continues to be his favorite distance (he ran second to Gay in "the deuce" at Osaka) and would focus on the half-lapper as much as the 100 meters going forward. Off this 9.72, there's growing thought that Bolt has what it takes to erase Michael Johnson's 1996 world 200-meter record of 19.32, too.
Unfortunately, though, fans in the sellout crowd of 6,490 never did get to see high hurdler Liu Xiang's own bid to capitalize on the weather situation and improve on his own world record of 12.88 set in 2006. The reigning Olympic champion will be China's principal gold medal candidate at Beijing in August, but sat this one out with a sore right hamstring muscle.
He let track-side announcer Lewis Johnson explain: "He came here to run for you, he's not a quitter. But he's trying to be ready for the performance the Chinese people expect of him. I'm going to ask you to respect this great Olympic champion's dream, and give him a standing ovation."
Liu Xiang then explained himself in Chinese to the many Chinese fans in the stadium, but had nothing extra to tell the media. He is listed to run the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., on June 8, but his status is in doubt.
With Liu Xiang out, two-time U.S. Olympic silver medalist Terrance Trammell had no problem winning the high hurdles race in 13.11.
Jamaica's Veronica Campbell-Brown, the reigning Olympic 200-meter champion, also found the weather to her liking, winning the women's 100 meters in 10.91, a meet record and quickest in the world this year.
Few of the 6,490 fans expected the 3,000-meter steeplechase race to produce fireworks, but Kenya's Paul Koech, three times the world's top ranked runner in the event, had other ideas.
"Rabbited" for the first half of the race by Kenya countryman John Langat, Koech sped his 7.5 laps in 8:01.85, the fastest time ever run in the United States -- or anywhere in the world outside of Europe, as well.
American Steve Slattery was on the other side of the track when Koech completed his run, finishing a distant second in 8:28.21, and Kenyan second-string Solomon Kandie held on for third in 8:29.40.
"Thanks to the fans," said Koech. "They were really with me, and in a tough race like this, they really helped me, especially at the end." The fastest previous steeplechase clocking on American soil was Moroccan Brahim Boulami's 8:04.51 at Gresham, Ore., on May 18, 2002.
U.S. pole vaulter Jenn Stuczynski never really came close in her three world-record attempts at 5.02 meters, but still won easily at 4.80
The lineup of U.S. 400-meter talent is long and lustrous - any of at least a dozen runners have the potential to make the Beijing-bound three-man squad for the individual 400 along with extras for the 4x400 relay pool. Now move Xavier Carter's name a little higher on that list after his decisive 44.70 triumph over Trinidad's Renny Quow (45.04.)
The 44.70 ranks fourth on the 2008 year list. But the versatile Carter still has to determine his best event -- the 100 meters, the 200 meters or the 400 meters.
There's no shortage of U.S. women's talent in the 400 meters, either. World champion Sanya Richards again proved her Beijing favorite's status with a meet record 50.04 triumph, third best thus far in 2008.
Last June, Lashinda Demus gave birth to twin boys, but now the 2006 World Championships 400-meter hurdles silver medalist out of UCLA is back in top form by winning the one-lap barrier event in 55.17 seconds, a meet-record time. Jamaica's Shevon Stoddart, her closest challenger, was second in 55.54.
Minutes later, U.S. Olympic hope Kerron Clement, the 2007 World Championships gold medalist at Osaka, blazed a 48.40 men's 400 hurdles triumph over Jamaica's Danny McFarlane (48.85.)
In featured throws, Nebraska grad Becky Breisch boosted her American Olympic hopes with a meet-record 63.70-meter women's discus win, and U.S. world outdoor champion Reese Hoffa (21.20) out-muscled countrymen Adam Nelson (20.91) and Christian Cantwell (20.83 to take the men's shot put.
Americans Brittany Henry (66.73 meters) and Bethany Hart (66.65) went 1-2 in the women's hammer throw, with Canada's Crystal Smith third (65.13) and Poland's Kamila Skolimowska (62.33) fourth.
U.S. Olympic veteran Ian Waltz uncorked a 66.17-meter toss in the sixth and final round of the men's discus to win it over Jarred Rome's 65.65.
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