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Thursday, 17 September 2015 20:40

Finally a Race Lives Up to the Hype: Bolt vs. Gatlin

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The strength of our sport is also its greatest weakness.
 
Sometimes, hyped up races do not live up to their hype.
 
Sometimes, the whispers of world records hurt when a race is satisfying without a fast time.
 
The Men's 100 meter final may have been, one of the finest races I have ever seen. And in the current controversies in our sport, when we need to celebrate racing and competition, and stop the hype of WR this, and WR that, this race was all about the racing. And there was some serious racing in this meeting of nine of the finest sprinters in the world.
 
The semi finals just added to the drama of the evening.
 
In the first semi final, Usain Bolt slipped about five meters into the race, Perhaps the best way to describe this was that Usain Bolt clipped his toes, and seemed to wake up, and ran hard. He did not get into the race until more than midway and had to lunge hard, winning in 9.96, with Andre De Grasse of Canada in 9.96 as well. A close call for Bolt. Many of us thought, what does this mean for the final? Bingtian Su of China recieved a roar from 50,000 screaming Chinese fans as he set an NR of 9.99. We guess that training camp with Loren Seagrave must have paid off for Mr. Su. He also made the final!
When asked later in the evening about the semi finals, Usain noted, " I just stumbled, but I knew...all I had to do was to compose myself and run my race! I talked to my coach (Glen Mills) and he said, Relax, and that's pretty much what I did."
 
In the second of the semi finals, Justin Gatlin ran 9.77, in a legal wind, and stopped running fifteen meters out. Mike Rodgers ran 9.86, a seasonal best, to take second. After watching Justin Gatlin win his semi final with such ease, I thought that he would decimate the field in the final.
In the third semi final, Tyson Gay won , with Asafa Powell in second. Tyson ran 9.96, with Powell in 9.97, and his 92nd sub ten second 100 meters.
The field was finalized and it would be Jimmy Vicaut, Bingtian Su, Asafa Powell, Tyson Gay, Mike Rodgers, Trayvon Bromell, Andre De Grasse, Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin.
 
The final introduction and build up took some time. An exciting hammer throw had taken place just before and a really competitive shot put, where the lead changed four times, were part of the evening.
 
The introductions gave each of the nine sprinters their time. Bingtian Su had a loud roar from the crowd. Each athelte received applause, but Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin recieved the most. Observing Usain Bolt, one could see that he was as close to stress as he gets. A solomn face for a few moments, then the raising of eyebrows, the cutting up in front of the camera. I wondered to myself, " was he preparing to lose?"
 
I had forgotten who I was watching.
 
The race went off with out an issue. For once, Usain Bolt got out well, and was flying down the track. It was a close race, as Justin Gatlin was out well, with Mike Rodgers, Jimmy Vicaut following.
 
Justin Gatlin was leading the race around 70 meters. Andre De Grasse and Trayvon Bromell were racing hard, and close to each other. About 70 meters, Usain Bolt looked over to his right, and sensed Gatlin was leading. With a huge pumping action of his arms, and increase in his stride length, Bolt began to use his natural advantages, of strength and stride length and churned up the track, eating up Gatlin's lead in a few meters.
 
Bolt was not only sprinting well, he was preparing to lean into the finish, as all good sprinters do. So was Gatlin, though he seemed to be, in the heat of this race, leaning about ten meters too early.
 
As Bolt's final strides put him just ahead of Gatlin, his lean at the tape sealed the deal, and a true race for the ages—one where nine of the finest sprinters duel and two battle it out, was seen by 50,000 fans in Beijing and a billion fans around the world!
 
Bolt won in 9.79, with Gatlin taking second in 9.80.
 
Trayvon Bromell and Andre De Grasse tied for the bronze in 9.92. Mike Rodgers was fifth in 9.94. Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell ran 10.00, with Gay getting the nod for sixth and Powell for seventh. Jimmy Vicaut, the French record holder and European leader, was eighth in 10.00, and Bingtian Su was ninth in 10.06.
A very satisfying race on many levels.
 
Now with Bolt's win in 2015 added to his wins in 2013 and 2009, this must be a most satisfying victory for the Jamaican superstar and a portent of exciting battles to come!
 
After the 100 meter final, I ventured into the Press Conference Room, in the bowels of the Bird's Nest. Gatlin was pretty relaxed. "Look, if I’m going to lose to anyone, it would have to be to Usain. I had a nice run this past couple years, and I needed to run the last part of the race well. I lost the race in the last five meters,” noted Gatlin.
 
In fact, after speaking with BBC World Service, I learned a few other details about the race. Rick Simms, Bolt’s manager, told Jamaican writers that he believed Bolt, in leaning a bit too early at the finish, that he nearly gave the race to Gatlin.
 
I am of another belief. In the heat of battle, sometimes decisions are made that don’t make sense in review. The first two fast rounds run by Justin Gatlin, while exciting, may have worn him out. He was so much in control after the first and semis, that many were convinced he would decimate Bolt.
 
In fact, Gatlin, getting some nervous energy out, may have worn himself out just enough to give a bit Usain a bit of the power.
 
The final was tough, and Bolt was playing on his turf. On Usain's beach, you have to be careful. The next time that Gatlin battles Bolt, my guess is he’ll be better equipped to race the fastest man in the world.
 
The next question to be answered is whether both men will race the 200 meters!
 
By Larry Eder, runblogrun.com
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