I have been watching the Olympic games now for 50 years and read about them and watched other Olympic films from times before then.
Clearly there have been great moments, spectacular triumphs, beaten favourites, human disasters etc. all human drama is there and I‘ve seen some of it, in no particular order I have seen Zatopek, Beaman, Stevenson, Owens, Korbett, Holmes, Wells, Borsov, Spitz, Phelps etc. I know I’ve missed out some people’s favourites but you can make up your own lists, it’s great fun, would Stevenson have beaten Ali had they met ? promoters still salivate at that lost fortune, could Owens have lived with Borsov, all things being equal ?
Without referring to record books or asking the experts I consider that we have seen some competitors who have changed the sport that they compete in, some intentionally and some less so, very few indeed change it by being so good at what they do that we start to think differently about their chosen discipline.
I remember the great American high jumper Dick Fosberry who suddenly appeared at the Olympics and outraged the coaches and experts by introducing a style of jump which looked like a drunk man falling down a flight of stairs, every high jumper now uses the “Fosberry Flop” and no-one taught him it.
Among those who changed things because of their absolute brilliance, from the above list I would include Beaman who almost jumped out of the stadium in Mexico in the long jump, I vividly remember the stunned silence as the commentators tried to grasp what they had just witnessed, he was no more than a contender for a medal, his long jump record shattered the event and was not matched for over 40 years. Experts say it was down to the thin air at Mexico City’s altitude but, no one else got near him.
Emil Zatopek, arguably the greatest of them all did something similar when he took 5 & 10,000 Mts. and then the Marathon at the Helsinki games, everyone had to rethink these events, it didn’t seem possible. Zatopek was also a true Corinthian Olympic athlete, one of the greatest ever and a modest and loved personality, he actually gave one of his golds to a guy he beat.
Anyway all this Kelly opinion leads us to today, I wrote earlier about the Jamaican Bolt and suggested they make him run in wellies to give the others a chance, I didn’t really mean it but today it didn’t look so daft.
Sprint coaches have some golden rules, 1/ complete focus, some wear ear plugs to blot out everything before the race, Bolt was clowning around doing some dance steps and posing. 2/ Never ever look anywhere other than straight ahead, champions have been beaten simply because they glanced round to look for their opponents when they were in the lead, Bolt was clearly looking around himself with 10 Mts. To go. 3/ keep your rythmn right to the end, legs straight arms pumping, head up. Bolt dropped his arms and ran the last 7/8 Mts. without the use of his them, he was waving them about and shouting to himself, he also managed to slap himself on the chest in congratulation as he swept imperiously over the finish, I have now watched it 3 times and I didn’t imagine any of it.
Like Zatopek and Beaman this young Jamaican has changed his chosen sport, competitors are in dismay and commentators are lost for words, what we witnessed was the equivalent of runners being lapped in a distance race, he can clearly go faster and he is red hot favourite for the 200 Mts.
Spare a thought for the phenomenal swimmer Michael Phelps, he must be asking why, when he won all those golds did this guy turn up at the same meeting, after all that poncing about with swords, bows and canoes etc. the games are being rescued.
Make no mistake about it these will be known as the Bolt Olympics, it seems superfluous to say it but he is also the most fluent, and graceful sprinter I have ever seen.