Usain Bolt again steals Olympic stage
LONDON -- After Thursday's performance, anything less than a fog machine at the start line and a conga line of Swedish women handball players waiting at the finish will be a major disappointment at the 2016 Olympics.
There have been two dominant household-name athletes at the past two Olympics -- Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt. But unlike Phelps, Bolt is as much an entertainer as an athlete, which is saying a lot. After all, Phelps never finished off a race with a quick set of pushups on the pool deck.
"That was for my friends," Bolt said of his calisthenic drill at the end of his 200-meter run Thursday. "They told me I should do pushups because it would look good on TV."
The pushups bookended Bolt's prerace routine in which he flexed his arms as if pumping iron and gave the crowd the Queen Elizabeth wave (something else Phelps never does). "We always sit around and talk about what we're going to do [when introduced]," Bolt said. "I came up with the wave and thought that should be good enough. I did the wave, and it was pretty cool."
Oh, and what Bolt did in the actual race was pretty captivating as well. Despite saying he was not quite 100 percent healthy, Bolt blazed out of the blocks and around the curve, then cruised to an easy victory in a time of 19.32 seconds to become the first runner in Olympic history to win back-to-back gold medals in the 100 and 200. Four years after Beijing, he remains so fast that he eased up once again at the end.
"I think I ran a little too hard," he said. "I felt a little pain in my back and I kept my eyes on [silver medalist] Yohan Blake to make sure he wouldn't pass me. That's why I slowed down a little."
Heck, and I thought he slowed down to send out a tweet.
Will post more photos of me and Swedish women's handball team just as soon as I win 200.
After showing off his pushup skills, Bolt declared himself the greatest sprinter in history -- "It isn't even a question. I've done something no one else has ever done" -- as well as a living legend.
Like Muhammad Ali did, Bolt craves and swallows the spotlight. He is so entertaining, so cocky and so funny, it's as if no one else is on the track. As he recalled telling Blake two years ago, "You came around at the wrong time. These next two years are my time. After that, you can do whatever you want, but these two years are mine."
Which presents a challenge, even for Bolt. Now that London is drawing to a close, what do the next four years hold, and those beyond that? For once, he's not certain. "I made a goal to make myself a legend," he said. "Now I have to sit down and really find something that I want to do."
There were plenty of suggestions Thursday night. Reporters asked Bolt about trying the long jump (he said he's always been interested in it) or running the 400 (he hates the event and don't ask him about it again), as well as a career in soccer (he thinks he would make a great winger) or cricket (he loves the sport).
There is one thing we know he won't do, though. "I'm not going to be on the bobsled team," he said.
His postrace news conference was wide ranging, to say the least. One reporter asked whether Bolt believed he belonged in the same company as Michael Jordan and Ali. "Yes, I belong in that category." Another asked whether he was a greater Jamaican than Bob Marley. "No, I'm just carrying on his duty." Yet another asked what type of woman interested him most, a singer, an actress, a queen or a very fast runner. From his expression and head shaking, definitely not a fast runner.
"I used to have a type, but I don't have a type anymore," he said. "It's all about falling in love. Yeah, I said it."
Still another reporter asked what the story was behind the photos of the Swedish handball players he tweeted after winning gold in the 100. "Ha, ha, ha, let me explain that," Bolt said before going on a long story about meeting the players in the Olympic Village cafeteria and posing for photos with them.
Bolt also turned serious for a moment and criticized Carl Lewis, who has questioned whether the Jamaican team runs drug-free. "I'm going to say something controversial right now. Carl Lewis, I have no respect for. The things he says about the track athletes is really downgrading for him to be saying. I think he's just looking for attention because nobody really talks about him."
Phelps' postrace interviews are never this interesting.
Bolt has one more race here, the 4x100 relay Saturday, after which, he said, "I will party like it's my birthday." And then he will finish out the season and see what the future holds, and whether he'll be able to match up with Blake in Rio when he is 30 and his teammate is 26.
Oh, and one more very important thing.
"If I don't see this on the TV or in the papers, I won't do any more interviews," Bolt said before pausing dramatically for effect. "I want to tell my friends to follow me on Twitter @usainbolt.com."
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