Postcard from Beijing: A Bolt of lightning

The most impressive single performance of the Beijing Olympics has been the 100-meter world record turned in by Usain Bolt of Jamaica. The 21-year-old awed more than 90,000 spectators at the Bird’s Nest with his almost casual 9.69-second clocking. He blew past the pack midway through the race and then let up over the final 15 meters. “I didn’t know I had the world record until after my victory lap,” Bolt explained at the packed post-race press conference.

The No. 2 and 3 all-time sprinters did not medal. Former world-record-holder Asafa Powell (9.74), also of Jamaica, was fifth in 9.95. American record-holder Tyson Gay (9.77) did not reach the final, finishing fifth in his semi earlier in the evening. Bolt was apologetic for not facing the hobbled Gay.

“I told Tyson all season I was looking forward to competing against him [here],” Bolt said. “If you want to be the best, you have to compete against the best.”

The U.S. did get the bronze medal. Walter Dix of Florida State ran 9.91 for third place, just behind surprise runner-up Richard Thompson (9.89) of Trinidad.

There have been other superlative Olympic races. This one compares with Michael Johnson smashing the 200-meter world record at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and winning by more than half a second. That mark of 19.32, which is still .3 faster than anyone else has run, will be Bolt’s next target, starting Monday. His best time is 19.67. Dix has run 19.69, which is the collegiate record. So another top matchup is pending.

San Francisco native and College of San Mateo sports information director Fred Baer is covering his ninth Olympic Games as a journalist and is providing The Examiner with a behind-the-scenes view of the Beijing Games.

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