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Bolt from the blue

By Mike Costello
BBC Radio 5 Live athletics commentator

Usain Bolt

People who do not follow athletics might be surprised to be suddenly hearing the name of Usain Bolt, but he has been on the radar for some time.

This is a lad that in Jamaica has been talked about as a freak and as a one-off.

I went to see him in 2004 in the build-up to the Athens Olympics and Jamaican athletics followers were already very giddy about him.

In the run-up to those games he had broken the world junior record and two years before that in Kingston, Jamaica he sent the stadium into a frenzy by winning the world junior title over 200m aged just 15.

When I spoke to him in 2004 he was one of the young up-and-coming stars. He was incredibly shy at that stage and I remember talking to coaches and journalists and the general feeling was that he was a Bambi-like figure who was struggling to come terms with his own body.

606: DEBATE
winston99

He was 6ft 5ins tall and gangly. He ran with an ungainly style at that stage but still managed to break the world junior record.

In Athens he was already touted as one of the best junior athletes the world had ever seen. Yet, I remember vividly when he was sitting on his lane marker and waiting for his name to be announced - it was almost as if his eyeballs were about to pop out of their sockets and his legs were trembling.

Clearly, the whole Olympic aura had got to him and he was eliminated in the first round.

I remember one coach saying to me "wait until this lad really learns how to race", and it appears as though that time has come.

Since that failure in Athens, he has gradually started to make a mark at senior level and that was crowned last year at the World Championships in Osaka when he finished second behind Tyson Gay in the 200m.

The surprise this year is that he has managed to adapt so quickly to the 100m. Back in 2004 the thought was he would develop into another Michael Johnson in that he would be another 200m and 400m specialist, but he has always said that there is scope for him in the 100m.

I am told that he actively begged his coach to be involved in the 100m this season.

Usain Bolt
It will be interesting to see how he deals with the pressure now he is the fastest man in the world

Mike Costello
The pre-cursor for what we saw in New York was there when he raced in Jamaica a month ago. He ran 9.76 in a big meet which made him the second fastest man of all time.

Anybody who looks at that race will see that he is not electrifying out of the blocks and for 30-40m he was no better than level with the field.

However, in the second half of the race he just obliterated them with a devastating burst of acceleration and almost strolled over the line.

He is a relative novice over 100m and you have to believe there is more to come.

The Olympics, where he will be up against Asafa Powell and Gay, could be one of the fastest of all time, but there will be a lot of pressure on Bolt.

It is fascinating, because Powell admitted last year that he did not get it right in Osaka as he was almost suffocated with the pressure of being favourite.

There is a long build up between now and Beijing and already Bolt, because of what he has achieved, will have the favourite tag around his neck.

As the games get closer that tag will get heavier and we saw how he capitulated in Athens.

It will be interesting to see how he deals with that pressure now he is the fastest man in the world.


see also
Bolt sets new 100m world record
01 Jun 08 |  Athletics
Bolt races to second fastest 100m
04 May 08 |  Athletics
Powell smashes 100m world record
09 Sep 07 |  Athletics
Gay sprints to second Worlds gold
30 Aug 07 |  Athletics


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