The day Usain Bolt won his first Olympic gold medal
The Jamaican sprinter was just getting started when he took the 100 meters in 2008
When Usain Bolt broke the world record for the 100-meter sprint in front of 91,000 fans at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he was running on two helpings of chicken nuggets and a day spent watching his favorite TV shows and sleeping. He didn’t disclose to curious media members the type of sauce he used.
If you thought the man was relaxed at the 60-, 70-meter mark of the race when he turned his head to both sides as if to look for where his competition had suddenly disappeared to and then decided to outstretch his arms (a pose racers typically take after crossing the finish line), then you don’t know the half of it. Bolt won the race after a slow start out of the blocks and with his shoelace untied.
Even as the Jamaican sprinter eased up to celebrate midrace and strike that pose, his dominance was in no way affected as Bolt etched his name in history with a 9.69-second finish on Aug. 16, 2008.
“I’m not really worried about world records,” Bolt told The New York Times. “My aim is to just come here and win. I have a lot more time to think about world records.”
A decade ago, Bolt won his first Olympic gold medal. He would go on to make history as the only sprinter to win the Olympic 100 and 200 meters in three consecutive games (2008, 2012 and 2016).
Bolt never left an Olympic event with anything short of a gold medal, as Jamaica also won the 4×100 relays in which he participated. If not for a teammate’s doping that was uncovered recently, the retired sprinter would have nine Olympic gold medals instead of eight.
Questions swirled about how fast Bolt actually was because he clearly relented toward the end of his 100-meter race in 2008. His trainer, with the insight of sports scientists, estimated if Bolt had a good start and ran through the finish line, he could have finished with a sub-9.60. When the question was posed to Bolt, he said he wouldn’t really know until he looked at a replay and studied the film.
“You haven’t seen anything yet. He’s going to run a 9.55,” Canada’s Donovan Bailey, who set the previous Olympic record of 9.84 seconds at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, told the Toronto Star.
When the gun went off at the beginning of the race, Bolt had the second-worst reaction time in the eight-man field. He would make it up quickly, catching Trinidad and Tobago’s Richard Thompson at the 20-meter mark and keeping pace with him until the halfway mark. Bolt kicked into another gear and dusted the eventual silver medalist by a fifth of a second.
As Bolt made his way across the tape at the finish, he beat his chest and looked directly into the cameras. There was no need to check the timer because he, along with anyone watching at the Bird’s Nest, knew that he owned the coveted title of world’s fastest man.
“He’s like a LeBron James,” American Darvis Patton told The New York Times. “You’ve got a young guy who’s doing things that haven’t been done before. The guy just broke the Olympic record and the world record.
“He’s just having fun. It’s everyone trying to catch up to Usain Bolt. Even his own countrymen are trying to catch up to him. He’s in a league of his own.”
Asked how to deal with Bolt’s dominance, Patton elaborated: “How do you deal with [Michael] Jordan? How do you deal with LeBron? He’s a freak of nature. You guys saw it for yourselves. I just happened to have a front-row seat.”