By Jonathon Gatehouse - Thursday, December 6, 2012 - 0 Comments
Jamaican runner’s three-peat in London made him a legend. As Jonathon Gatehouse explains, there’s more to do
Just a touch over a minute and 18 seconds. That’s all the time Usain Bolt actually spent running at the London Olympics. Three 100-m sprints, three 200-m runs, and the anchor leg of the men’s 4 x 100-m relay, spread over the course of a week. Not a bad return on investment considering his results—three more gold medals.
The 26-year-old Jamaican had set himself an immodest goal heading into his second Summer Games: to become a legend. And by winning the same three events he had taken in Beijing back in 2008—sprinting’s triple crown—he certainly made his case. There’s only ever been one other track and field athlete to win three events at consecutive Olympics: Ray Ewry of the U.S., who took back-to-back golds in the standing high jump, standing long jump, and standing triple jump in 1900 and 1904. (He won two more of those three events in 1908.) But it’s a safe bet that he didn’t cap it off by partying into the wee hours of the morning with leggy members of the Swedish women’s handball team. “I’m the greatest,” Bolt repeatedly told reporters, never failing to follow it up with his infectious grin. And really, who’s arguing?
In a discipline that is filled with chest-thumpers and enormous egos, Bolt towers above his competition. Before the six-foot-five star came along, sprinting was considered a shortish man’s game, with races won via quick exits from the blocks and low-slung drives over the first 30 m. But where Bolt excels is down the back stretch, standing tall with his long legs gobbling up the track. “I’m kind of a poor starter,” he explains in a video he recently posted on his website. “At 60 m, that’s where I become a beast. That’s when I start to dominate a race.” By the 90-m mark the work is usually over, and the celebration well under way. “The last 10 m you’re not going to catch me. No matter who you are, no matter what you’re doing. That last 10 m takes me three-and-a-half strides.” Continue…
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 8:15 AM - 0 Comments
Relaxed and remarkable sprinter stole the show in London
The day started with Chicken McNuggets and ended with three leggy members of the Swedish women’s handball team in his bedroom, although somewhere in between the indulgences and the excesses Usain Bolt found the time to make history. Not much time, mind you—just 9.63 seconds. But the Jamaican sprinter’s gold-medal-winning performance in the men’s 100-m was one for the ages.
It began in the blocks. As camera flashes turned London’s Olympic stadium into the world’s biggest disco, the 25-year-old mugged shamelessly for the fans and a worldwide TV audience estimated at 200 million. He mimed sprinkling something from his fingers—fairy powder, stardust, who knows? He smoothed his hair and mock-wiped sweat from his brow. When the announcer appealed for quiet for the start, he smiled and put a finger to his lips, shushing the crowd. And then, he flashed a broad smile and winked.
So confident. So loose. So cocky. His opponents in the fastest sprint final ever assembled— every man had a season’s-best performance below 9.96 seconds—were used to his gamesmanship, but this was a whole new level. And once the gun went off, he backed it up, tearing down the track to win his second straight Olympic title—not quite equalling his world record of 9.58—but six one-hundredths faster than his blistering time from Beijing in 2008.
By Charlie Gillis - Thursday, August 9, 2012 at 7:10 PM - 0 Comments
More gold, more hijinks and a declaration of legend-hood from the world’s fastest man
So there’s your defining performance of the London Olympics—and it wasn’t merely athletic.
The British can treasure the Brownlee boys, or Jessica Ennis’s heptathlon win. The rest of us take home snapshots, mental and actual, of the human parade float that is Usain Bolt. Bolt mugging. Bolt as archer. Bolt shoulder-checking on his way to the wire and finding nothing much to worry about.
It’s Bugs Bunny goes to the Olympics. He missed that turn at Albuquerque, but he won the race any way.
Tonight, the icing on the cake (or as Bolt would have it, the sauce on the chicken nugget). The 25-year-old cruised to a 19.32 gold medal in the 200-m, demonstrating once again that fears of his dissolution were greatly exaggerated. He didn’t need to smash his own world records in both events. Painting up to the edge of those times was enough. His countryman and understudy, Yohan Blake, ran a blazing 19.44 in the 200-m for silver—the best he’s done all year; a third Jamaican, Warren Weir, took bronze four tenths of a second later. But once again, Bolt was easing up as he crossed the line.
“The key for me is always to run the corner as fast I can because I know I’m a better turner than Yohan,” he shrugged. “When I came out of it, I could feel a slight strain in my back , so I decided I was going to keep my eyes on [Blake], and make sure I stayed in front of him. I did just that and that’s the reason I slowed down at the line.”
How long has it been since we’ve seen an athlete this flat-out dominant? Or so downright fun? ”Guy’s on another planet,” remarked the fourth-place runner, Wallace Spearmon of the U.S., afterward, and it was true in more ways than one. As Blake stepped onto the podium, Bolt made mock claws with his fingers—a play on the “Beast” nickname he bestowed on the earnest young runner. Then, when they called his own name, Bolt leapt up with both feet and spread his arms in victory.
The show went on. While other athletes take a victory lap, he took one and a-half, beckoned by adoring fans hoping preserve him in smartphone pixels. You started to wonder whether he planned to oblige all 80,000. The tour continued through a medal ceremonies, and bled into a tour of the TV tribunes, where he once again gave every broadcaster an interview.
“Drum roll, please!” he intoned on the way into his post-race news conference, and from there, he riffed on sprinting, retirement, cricket and life. “I’ve made myself a legend, and that’s what I’ve wanted. I’m just going to enjoy myself now. To have accomplished that goal, you can’t explain the happiness that comes from that.”
It was easy, given the floor show, to forget the import of the night for Jamaica, whose repatriation of its sprinters has transformed it into a track colossus. To see three men from one country on the podium summoned 2004, when the U.S. pulled off the same feat in the 200 metre. But the U.S. is a country of 300 million people; Jamaica has less than three million yet has left the sprinting world in its dust.
Pick your explanation. The press conference broke up in laughter when a nervous reporter called the Jamaican track team “the Jamaican drug team,” while attempting to ask whether the group was doping free. Bolt, as he always does, brushed it off. “These guys train really hard,” he said, gesturing to Blake and Weir. He went on to chide Carl Lewis, saying he’d “lost all respect” for the U.S. sprinting legend for recent remarks Bolt felt cast today’s sprinters as dopers.
Whatever the explanation, the upcoming 4×100-metre relay is clearly Jamaica’s to lose.
And after that? Bolt says he’ll keep running, but not forever. He joked with reporters about playing Premier League soccer, or trying out long jump. “I need a goal. I need something to motivate me.” But he made no promise to run in Rio, acknowleding that, at 30, he might be too slow to keep up with his compatriots. And as the newser wound down, he left the sense that he’d done all he needs to do. Seizing the mic one last time, he declared: “I am now a living legend. Bask in my glow”
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Sunday, August 5, 2012 at 6:09 PM - 0 Comments
He’d won the 100 metres before leaving the blocks
Usain Bolt won the men’s 100 metre sprint before he ever left the starting blocks.
As camera flashes turned London’s Olympic stadium into the world’s biggest disco, he mugged shamelessly for the TV audience. He mimed sprinkling something from his fingers—magic powder, stardust, who knows? He smoothed his hair and mock wiped sweat from his brow. When the announcer appealed for quiet for the start, he smiled and put a finger to his lips, shushing the crowd. And then, he winked.
So confident. So loose. So cocky. His opponents in the fastest sprint final ever assembled—every man had a season’s best performance below 9.96 seconds—were used to his gamesmanship, but this was a whole new level. And once the gun went off, he backed it up, tearing down the track in 9.63 seconds, six one-hundredths faster than in Beijing, on his way to another Olympic gold.
If there was a difference, it was that this time he actually ran for the entire distance. Pushed by his fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake who took the silver in 9.75 seconds, and Justin Gatlin of the U.S. who took bronze in 9.79 (the time that won the race for a doped up Ben Johnson in Seoul way back in 1988) Bolt actually had to try. He caught Gatlin at the 50 metre mark and then powered towards the finish line, even dipping his head to make sure he crossed first.
“A lot of you guys doubted me,” he chided reporters, after greeting them with a lion’s roar. “And I just showed the world that I’m the greatest. No matter what, I show up on the day.”
Truth be told, the master psyche-out had started far before the London Games. His performances since he set the world record at the 2009 World Championship—a jaw-dropping 9.58—had been far from dominant. He lost twice to his training partner Blake at the Jamaican national trials this spring. And once he arrived in the UK, he let it be known that he not only had hamstring problems, but a wonky back as well. In the qualification round, he ran a 10.09—respectable, but not blazing.
It was until the semis, a couple of hours before the finals, that he allowed his true form to shine.
During the introductions, he mugged and shadow boxed, crossed himself and pointed to the heavens. And running in a group that included Richard Thompson of Trinidad, the silver medalist in Beijing, and Ryan Bailey of the U.S., he aired it all out over the first 70 metres, looked to his left, then right to make sure he was all alone, and then pretty much jogged to the finish crossing in 9.87 seconds. A few minutes later down in the press zone, he watched a replay of the race on TV, smirked and strutted happily away. Usain Bolt was back.
The celebration lap after the gold was epic. Wrapped in the black, green and gold flag of Jamaica, he waded into the crowd time and again, to exchange handshakes, hugs and pose for pictures. “U-sain, U-sain, U-sain,” the fans chanted. He cocked his hand to his ear, and motioned his arm for more. He directed the photographers and cameramen into position. And at one point he even did a somersault on the track.
However, the most telling moment came when he finally completed his lap of the stadium long minutes later. Back in front of the waiting broadcast positions he broke into a boxer’s quick shuffle, and it was suddenly clear who he was channelling. The whole night was one long impersonation—or maybe a tribute—to Muhammad Ali. A man who won as many matches out of the ring as in it.
“It’s all for the fans. I love showing them the energy that they give to me,” Bolt explained. “When they say ‘On Your Marks’ that’s when the focus starts.”
Bolt was still celebrating as the fans filed out of the stadium. Then he began his long post-race wind down, stopping for interviews with each and every one of the official Olympic broadcasters—more than two dozen in all. And each chat lasted far longer than 9.63 seconds.
Other than letting his mouth run, there were to be no official celebrations of the victory. Bolt still has two races to come—the 200m and the 4x100m relay—in his attempt to match the three golds he won in Beijing.
“Tonight just means I am one more step closer to being a legend,” he said. “And I’m happy with that.”
By Nicholas Köhler - Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 6:40 PM - 0 Comments
The year’s winners
From afar, the six-foot-five sprinter towers above his rivals as though his real trick is to cheat perspective—he looms larger because he’s already closer to the finish. At 23 he has won 25 consecutive races in two years. In August at the Berlin world championships he broke his own records in the 100- and 200-m races, a repeat of his dual golds at the Beijing Games; his part in winning a third for Jamaica in the 4 x 100-m sprint relay made it a hat trick.
Surely, when Stephen Harper crooned a little Ringo this fall, he was channelling the spirit of a frumpy Scottish lady—too old and too unkissed to be called a lass—whose appearance on Britain’s Got Talent cast us all in the role of hidden understudy or unpolished diva, capable of reducing a mob to tears. Boyle’s careening rise, with its uncertain makeovers and tantrums, has yet to eclipse that first magic shock.
Partway through the second period of game seven, Crosby finds himself crumpled against the boards after a hit from Detroit Red Wings forward Johan Franzen. In pain, he hobbles into the Pittsburgh Penguins’ dressing room, but is back before the night’s done to lift the Stanley Cup above his head—at 21 the youngest NHL captain ever to do so, and just four years after arriving as the No. 1 selection in the draft. Nuff said.
Despite its oddly adult opening sequence—which follows Carl and Ellie Fredricksen from kiddie courtship to dotage and on to death—the animated film Up did gangbusters at the box office, making it Pixar’s 10th consecutive film to break US$100 million. Off-screen, too, it was good to be a geezer. The over-60 set learned it needn’t worry about H1N1 due to a youthful exposure to something similar. Paul Anka awoke at 68 to hear This is It, a tune he’d written with Michael Jackson years ago, on the radio, and earned a mint for his troubles. Willard Boyle of Halifax won a Nobel for physics at 85, for work put to bed 40 years ago, and McGill neuroscientist Brenda Milner a $1-million prize for her work on memory—at 91. Dame Vera Lynn, whose WWII anthem We’ll Meet Again we know from Dr. Strangelove, hit No. 1 in the U.K. with a greatest hits CD.
It wasn’t just that his new CD, Crazy Love, shot to No. 1 within days of its release; at 34, Bublé suddenly seemed comfortable being Bublé. The crooner had tired of being the big-band throwback mums and daughters love: the squeaky-clean routine didn’t fit with a lady-killer who likes a drink and may well Bublé your joint (to coin a phrase). He admits to the illicit fun-making now, and fans seem to love him no less.
Japan’s Democratic party
After nearly 54 years of rule by the Liberal Democratic Party, the notoriously cautious Japanese voter decided in August to try something different and cast a ballot for the Democratic party. The landslide made Yukio Hatoyama PM, a moment Barack Obama recently called a “political earthquake,” even if it did little to fix a Japanese economy still burdened by a recession that took hold in the 1990s.
In the early 1970s, Bette Midler emerged from the bathhouses of New York with a stage show in which the outrageous costumes and setpieces were as important as the music. Strip away Midler’s irony and sense of fun and you get Gaga, a 23-year-old Yonkers gal who’s sold over four million copies of her debut, The Fame, and 20 million digital singles. If she wears bits of fly screen on her fingernails, she still sounds refreshingly expert singing solo from behind a piano.
At 37, he’s a little longue dans le dent to be up for his second straight MVP nod. Quarterback Calvillo, a 14-year CFL vet, was also among nine Montreal Alouettes named to the league’s all-star squad, and his 26 touchdown passes were tops. In July he let fly the 335th scoring pass of his career, shifting him into second. He came in third in passing and only tossed out six interceptions in 550 attempts.
Even as cost-cutting continues to gut investigative journalism, Jerry Mitchell, a reporter with the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., is a wonderful anomaly. Over 20 years, his work to probe civil-rights era killings has put four Klansmen in prison, including Byron De La Beckwith, convicted in the 1963 murder of Medgar Evers. This fall he won a US$500,000 MacArthur Foundation “genius grant”; he plans to continue his reporting.
In a series of Vanity Fair photographs featuring Hamm with his so-beautiful-it-hurts Mad Men co-star January Jones, Annie Leibovitz presented a fairy-tale creature whose veins run with ink from the Harlequin presses. But it was his turn on 30 Rock as Tina Fey’s fling, Dr. Drew Baird, that convinced the hitherto unimpressed. That self-deprecating take on a man so handsome he’s oblivious to his shortcomings led to one of two Emmy nominations—the other was for Mad Men.
The social networking site Facebook changed the way it handles personal data provided by users all over the world, in part due to a report issued by federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart blasting Facebook for violating Canadian privacy law. Among other things, it will make it clearer how to delete accounts and to choose what personal info is sent to third parties.
Though released late last year, Beyoncé’s video for Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It), settled into being the secret heart of 2009. It was the one Kanye West felt should have won over Taylor Swift’s You Belong to Me. It became the subject of countless YouTube homages, creating the first dance craze of the 21st century. Greeting Beyoncé in January, Barack Obama flapped his hand in glorious Ring on It mimicry. With the grace of a balletic giraffe, Beyoncé demonstrated her infinite self-possession.
In flowing golden robes and trademark sunglasses, flanked by seven “traditional kings of Africa,” Gadhafi arrived in Addis Ababa in February to assume the leadership of the African Union. His ascendency was not without controversy. Gadhafi waited until 2003 to renounce terrorism and appeared to want the leadership merely to help propel Libya from the shadows of international isolation. Next stop . . . Mugabe?
Who said there are no second acts in American lives? F. Scott, meet Alec Baldwin, the leading man-turned-celebrity-divorcé-turned-awful-voice-mail-dad, whose role on 30 Rock spawned a comeback. This year he’s earned an Emmy, starred alongside Meryl Streep in It’s Complicated as a man cheating on a trophy wife with his aging ex, and was named co-host (with Steve Martin) of the 2010 Oscars. Alec, grab that winning streak and start marketing Schweddy Balls—now.
By Charlie Gillis - Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at 11:00 AM - 16 Comments
Why the world’s fastest man can’t run clear of controversy
Of all the analysts, coaches, retired athletes, kinesiologists, politicians, Freakonomists, dieticians and assorted pundits who weighed in on Usain Bolt’s performance last week, perhaps none captured the magnitude of the sprinter’s accomplishment better than Ethan Siegel. An astrophysicist by training, and a data cruncher by inclination, Siegel was in front of his TV in Portland, Ore., when the lanky Jamaican performed the athletic equivalent of a quantum leap at the world track championships, lopping .11 seconds off the world record in the 100-m dash and sending the crowd in Berlin into a frenzy.
Stunned, Siegel proceeded directly to his computer. There he assembled a graph charting world records in the 100 m against time, in hopes of illustrating how radically Bolt’s times diverged from the historical norm. Sure enough, the resulting trend line could be likened to a river emptying over a cliff. Up there was everyone else’s record; down here was Bolt’s—some 30 years ahead of where it should be according to the historical trajectory, and tantalizingly close to the theoretical limit of human velocity. To Siegel, the graph bore out some wild-sounding comparisons he’d been hearing to Bob Beamon, an American long-jumper whose 8.9-m leap in 1968 stood as the world record for 23 years. “I’ve never seen something like this happen in any sport,” he says. Others weren’t so impressed. “I suspect the math behind this performance,” sniffed one commenter on Siegel’s site, “is actually chemistry.” Continue…
By Lianne George - Friday, August 21, 2009 at 8:00 AM - 1 Comment
Newsmakers of the week
League of their own
The Hastings All-Stars swept five games and outscored their opponents 82-15 to win the Canadian Little League Championships in Val-d’Or, Que., on Saturday. The score, however, belies the backstory of this gritty team from blue-collar East Vancouver. The 11 boys and a girl (Katie Reyes, who homered in the final game) share one overbooked ball diamond with 22 teams. Money is so tight, some players’ fees were covered by KidSport, which helps low-income athletes. Now they’re off to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. Their first game will be broadcast on ESPN on Aug. 22.
Green party Leader Elizabeth May is testing the waters, and patience, of party members as she searches the country for a winnable riding. She previously ran unsuccessfully in 2006 in the London North Centre by-election. Then, it was a suicide mission against Tory Peter MacKay in Central Nova. And now, determined to get into the Commons, she has chosen the riding of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound. At least that’s what she implied last week, when she told local media it was “definitely tempting” to run there. The more likely spot is the left-coast riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands. Local media report she is house hunting in Sidney, B.C. “My heart is here,” she said of the seaside community, “but I just want to make sure.” Continue…