G.O.A.T. Status: Bolt Again Defies Logic, History

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Call Me G.O.A.T: Bolt Makes Case For Greatest Ever

I called it. Three Years Ago, I called it.

We all marveled in his greatness three years ago after his astonishing performance in Berlin to follow up his masterpiece in Beijing. Then we saw some stumbles along the years; struggles with injuries, false start and straight up losses to training partners. When we saw that he fell to countryman Yohan Blake in Jamaican trials last month, the whispers began that Superman had been attacked with Kryptonite. All Usain Bolt has done since then is silence all critics, amaze us all again and cement his place in history just as I mused three years ago.

Well done.

Like many people, I’ve marveled at how this gregarious, relzxed showman can show such vicious killer instinct on the track and have done it at consecutive Olympic Games. The 100/200 double had been done before by Carl Lewis in Seoul (only after Ben Johnson of Canada was DQ’ed for doping), but no one had ever repeated. It wasn’t even plausible. In a sport such as track where sprinting is as much about the next big star as any other, it would haven’t been surprising to see Bolt necessarily lose these Olympics to Blake or anyone else. But he’s already accomplished what no one else has done in the 116 years of the modern Summer Olympic Games. I said it three years ago, but didn’t believe fully that it would come to fruition:

 He could head into London to defend his crowns and arguably could step away from the sport at age 25 after London with three more Olympic gold medals in his possession and cement his position as the greatest sprinter in history. At an age, where most sprinters are arguably reaching their prime, Bolt could go out on top and leave no argument as to the best ever.

And here he stands at age 25, with no peer. Already he lays claim to five gold medals (he know no other color from the Olympics), and seeks another in the 4 x 100 relay where another world record is sure to fall. Even after his great victory in the 200, where he ran the third fastest time in history, he mentioned that he shoots to come back to Rio to defend his titles in both the 100 and 200.

The only two variables that will stop him will be the only two variables that most great athletes can control: Age and injuries. He’s suffered his share of injuries in the past four years since his ascent to the throne of sprinting and aging is inevitable. Only time will tell what age does to his physical abilities.

However, if he is able to overcome those hurdles, he could be staring in the face true greatness and glory that is unmatched in all of sports, not just track and field. One could only doubt, but after his display this week at these Games, don’t bet your life savings on it.

-B. Cox

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Felix Finally Claims Her Throne

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Finally! Felix Breaks Through in 200.

For Allyson Felix, it all came together for her. She had played second fiddle twice on the Olympic Stage. First as a 18-year old prodigy finishing second to Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown int he 200. Four years later, a more mature Felix fell behind early to Campbell-Brown and could only muster silver again. The failures drove Felix towards success. In between Beijing and her time in London, she alternated between running the 400 and the 100, winning a world title in the former in 2011 and qualifying for the Olympics in the latter. The training for both races gave her the tools for success, strength and a kick from the 400 and a good start and speed from the 100. These all translated into making her the best 200 runner in the world. Last night, she left no doubt in sprinting to her first Olympic individual gold medal in 21.88, outlasting 100 meter champ Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce and Carmelita Jeter to the finish line. If she could have smiled anymore, it would probably get stuck that way. Who could blame her?

Since she was a teenager, we’ve known that Allyson Felix would be great. Since she was a phenom blazing the track and making national news at LA Baptist High School, you knew that she was a special talent. Now at 26, we expected she would be at least a three-time gold medalist in the 200 and maybe a few other titles under her belt. While Felix’s career has been stellar, the one glaring omission from her gleaming resume was an individual gold medal in the Olympics. Four individual world titles, four relay world titles, two Olympic silver medals and an Olympic relay gold. Since her dominating performance at the U.S. Trials, there was enormous amounts of pressure on her to perform.

If she faltered yet again this time around, the story would have centered around her inability to get the job done in the clutch. The talk would have been about her shrinking on the world’s biggest stage. They would say: “Allyson Felix? She can’t get it done.” All of that weighed on her shoulders prior to start. She knew how huge the race was to her legacy.

As she powered down the straightaway, displaying that strength from 400 training and that burst from 100 training, Felix finally had he 200 gold. At a time when most sprinters meet their prime, Felix can realistically look to Rio in 2016 to defend her crown. In a tradition of great female sprinters from her country, she simply added her name to the greats with her triumph in London. It was more than overdue.
-B. Cox

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Day 12 Perspective: Pearson Sets Olympic Record in 100 Hurdles; Harper Silver, Wells Bronze; Makhloufi Redeems with Gold

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Pearson Became The First Australian To Win Gold in Track Since Freeman.

Makhloufi Overcame Embarassment To Win Gold in the 1,500.

In the prelims and semifinals, you could tell it was possible that some record would be broken. Present in the final was world champion and No. 1 ranked Sally Pearson who only lost once in 2012, defending Olympic champion Dawn Harper

and Kellie Wells-who was the only person to beat Pearson this year, and LoLo Jones, who was eager to redeem herself for her disappointment after leading after ninth hurdle to only clip the last hurdle and finish off the podium in Beijing.

The final did not disappoint . Pearson shot to a lead and held off a charging Harper to win gold in an Olympic record 12.35. Harper, edged out at the line, took silver and Kellie wells got the bronze. The finish was in doubt for about a minute as organizers sorted through the photo finish. When the results posted on the board, Pearson let out a scream and fell to the track overcome with joy, becoming the first Australian to win a gold medal in track & field since Cathy Freeman’s landmark moment in Sydney. Harper and Wells took silver and bronze respectively, and Jones finished with heartbreak again finishing fourth. No shame in running in arguably the greatest 100 hurdles final of all time.

On Monday Algerian distance runner Taoufik Makhloufi was expelled from the Games by organizers for lack of effort, citing an occurrence in the prelims of the 800. He claimed a pre-existing injury, but was forced to compete because the Algerian organizers refused to withdraw his name. He had already qualified for the 1,500 meters, his better race, and preferred to sit out concentrate on his efforts there. He had to race and barely 150 meters through the race, he walked off of the track because his injury flared up. The Algerian federation protested and appealed to have Makhloufi reinstated.  They were able to prove that he had a legitimate injury and he was reinstated. Last night, Makhloufi realized a path of redemption as he coasted to to win the 1,500 in 3:34.08, almost .78 seconds ahead of American Leo Manzano who sprinted to in the home stretch to capture silver.  The look on Makhloufi’s face tells the story of what it meant for him to fulfill his dream of Olympic glory. So much of the Olympic spirit isn’t about just winning medals, it’s about competition. The philosophy of “It’s not about whether you win or lose, it’s about about how you compete” was present for him. While his effort may have been initially question, no one could question the importance that moment to him and his country.

-B. Cox

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Day 10 and 11 Perspective-West Indians Make History

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In the end, it was Bolt who silenced his doubters in cementing his place in history.

 

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Fraser-Pryce became the first woman since Gail Devers to repeat as 100 meter Olympic champion

 

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James Sprinted to Grenada’s First Olympic Medal-And It Was Gold.

An set of unprecedented feats took place in London’s Olympic Stadium over the last couple of days. It started with two Jamaican sprinters defending their crown and cementing their places in Olympic history and ended with a teenager from Grenada ascending to the forefront of the sport. 

It started on Saturday night as Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce came on in the last 50 meters to over take the U.S.’s Carmelita Jeter to defend her title in the 100 meters. Four years ago, she was a bit of a surprise to win the gold in Beijing. Since then, Jeter has emerged as her main rival as she won the world title in 2011. With her win, Fraser-Pryce became the third woman to repeat as Olympic champion joining Americans Wyomia Tyus in ’64 and ’68 and Gail Devers in ’92 and ’96. With two Olympic golds and world title in her grasp, she has entered into rare territory. At 25, she could easily come back to Rio in 2016 searching a three-peat. 

Leading up to the final on Sunday night, Usain Bolt heard all of the talk. He heard that he was vulnerable. He heard about his losses to countryman and world champion Yohan Blake at Jamaican Olympic Trials in the 100 and the 200. He heard that if he would lose it would be here. Bolt put all of the talk to rest, blitzing to a win in an Olympic record 9.63. Blake took the silver and American Justin Gatlin won bronze. Bolt missed breaking his own world record by .06, and in what has become a customary scene after his victory, he danced and posed with the Jamaican flag once again. He became the second man in history to repeat as Olympic champion after the great Carl Lewis in ’84 and ’88. The fantastic journey that started just before Beijing last year when Bolt burst onto the scene breaking the 100 world record has continued. He has cemented his place in history with his devastating speed and talent. With a win in the 200, Bolt will become the first man to sweep the 100 and 200 in consecutive Olympics. Nothing from Sunday indicates that it will not happen.

On Monday night, Kirani James stood in the blocks with Grenada’s first Olympic medal in his site. Earlier in the competition, American Lashawn Merritt, James chief rival, pulled up in his preliminary heat with a nagging hamstring. This opened the door for James. He burst through, cruising to a win in the men’s 400 in 43.94, winning his country’s first Olympic medal and becoming the first non-American to break 44 seconds in the 400. James surged to the front in the home stretch and was easily five meters ahead of silver medalist Lugugelin Santos of the Dominican Republic. His victory mean much to the Caribbean island of 100,000 about 100 miles north of the coast of Venezuela. James, since winning the 400 world title last year, is a national hero and will rejuvenate and invigorate a nation of people. Even more impressive than his immense talent is his humility and respect. His moment with amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius of South Africa in the semfinals will be an enduring moment for many from these Games. His gold-medal win will prove to be a watershed moment for his country.

Just an idea on the regard that James has in the track & field world. Sprinting great Michael Johnson said the following on the 19-year old:

I am sure he will have a world record in his sights – my world record – and he could very well be the one to break it because he is a tremendous talent. He is very young and he has many, many years to learn more about this event.

High praise from the greatest 400 runner ever. James is that good.

-B. Cox

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Day 8 & 9 Perspective-A Perspective on Team GB’s Golden Weekend

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Golden Girl: Ennis Overcame the Pressure to Win Gold

 

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Greg Rutherford Surprised to Win Long Jump Gold

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Mo Farah sprinted over the last 150 to win Britain’s first gold in the 10,000.

Murray, who lost to Federer at Wimbeldon a month ago, powers himself to a gold.

During the first week, Great Britain had a rough go at the medals and many favorites failed to capitalize on their golden dreams. Mark Cavendish was favored in the men’s road race, but never figured into the lead pack and finished 29 and well back of the lead pack. Rebecca Adlington was favored as the defending Olympic Champion in the 400 and 800 free, but finished with bronze medals in both races. Paula Radcliffe, after facing disappointment in the women’s marathon in Athens and Beijing, pulled out the marathon due to injury. Tom Daley, the diving wunderkind who was expected to be force in the diving competition as defending world champion, finished fourth and out of the medals in the platform synchro event. In fact, it took until the middle of the week, until Team GB netted their first gold medals. It was a rough first week, but the weekend has more than enough made up for the early disappointments and has reinvigorated a nation’s hope in their delegation.

It all got started with Jessica Ennis, dubbed the “Golden Girl” of these games by the home county. The 2009 world champ and 2011 silver medalist came in burdening the hopes of a nation for gold. She did more than fulfill expectations, winning gold in the heptathlon with a score of 6,955 points, setting a new national record. She set personal bests in three of her first six events, including a Olympic heptathlon record in the 100 hurdles. She was ahead by 188 points heading into the 800. She overcame drifting on the back stretch and overpowered into the last 100 to take the lead and win in 2:08.65. As she finished with the crowd waving Union Jack flags, she collapsed to the track then began to sob as the enormity of the situation hitting her fully. As she composed herself, she waved to her countrymen and then grabbed a custom made Union Jack with the words “Jessica Ennis Olympic Champion” printed on them. As she circled the track for her last victory lap, you could tell that this was a landmark moment in Britain’s Olympic history. She, much like Kathy Freeman in Sydney, stood as a symbolic gesture to the culture and history of her country. As she wept and smiled during her national anthem, it became evident that the huge monkey on Team GB’s back was off and the unit was off and running.

For Mo Farah, the decision to leave home, go to the United States and train with famed coach Alberto Salazar and return home for these Olympics proved fruitful. The 10,000 meter world champ left Great Britain to avoid the pressure that accompanied many favorites within the county to focus on training and training alone. He trained with Salazar and U.S. runner  and 10,000 competitor Galen Rupp to avoid the English press and focus on the race. In the race Saturday, he stayed with the lead pack that included two-time gold medalist Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia, Kenya’s Wilson Kiprop and his training partner Rupp. headed into the last lap, Farah sprinted to the lead and battled with Ethiopia’s Tariku Bekele and Rupp for the lead. With about 150 meters left to go, he turned on his final kick and powered ahead to a 10 meter lead. As he sprinted down the home stretch, he realized with 10 meters to go of his victory and beamed as he crossed the finish line for gold, with his training partner Rupp right behind for silver. For Farah, the sacrifice of uprooting his life and family for glory of his country proved true. 

Greg Rutherford was considered a contender for a medal, but what he accomplished in the long jump Saturday was beyond his wildest dreams. On his fourth attempt, he soared to a jump of 27-3¼ that propelled him to the lead. He held on as he became the first Brit to win the long jump since Lynn Davies in Tokyo 1964. As he took his victory lap, he was right in the middle of Farah’s electrifying finish in the 10,000 and less than an hour removed from Ennis’s triumph. Truly a frustrating history of Great Britain in track & field was tumbling down. 

The most remarkable moment for Team GB may have come this morning on Centre Court at the All-England. Andy Murray, a month removed from a disappointing loss to seven-time champion Roger Federer in the men’s final at Wimbledon, faced him again in the gold medal final. All the pressure of succeeding in front of the home crowd and the stigma of never winning a Grand Slam pushed Murray to a decisive 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 win over the tennis great to capture. Murray was brilliant in capitlizing on a below average Federer on his best surface, holding serve and breaking him 5 times. When Murray cranked a monster serve at love in the last game, he dropped his racket and covered his face from the realization of a dream and triumph that can certainly serve as a springboard in his career. With his win, he’s started a journey of shedding the label of “can’t win the big one”. 

We know that in Olympic Games the host nation receives a bump in medals collected from competing on home soil. We’ve also seen how victories in certain disciplines can prove inspiring and infectious to the whole delegation. After a disappointing first week, maybe the victories on the track and on the court can spur a Team GB to a memorable and unprecedented showing at these Games.

-B. Cox 

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Day 8 Update-Serena Smashes Sharapova For Gold; U.S. Battles, but wins vs. Lithuania; Merritt out of 400.

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Serena completed a dominant tournament and destroys Sharapova for gold.

Women’s Singles

  • The only thing more surprising than Serena Williams’s 6-0, 6-1 dismantling of Maria Sharapova in the gold medal match at the All-England Club, was her celebratory dance. Williams, who hails from Compton, CA, broke out in a playful crip walk after her match which brought buzz from Twitter, Facebook and all over the web.

She could do no wrong, even in windy conditions at Centre Court. Her serve went largely unchallenged and her return game took part Sharapova’s serve. cruising through the final in less than an hour. This is Serena’s first singles medal and joins her two gold medals with Venus in women’s doubles from Sydney and Beijing. Currently, the Williams sisters face Kirlenko and Petrova in the doubles semis with the Williams sisters leading 7-5, 2-1.

  • Bob and Mike Bryan have accomplished all things that a great doubles team needs. They’ve won 11 Grand Slam titles, 78 ATP titles and a bronze in doubles four years ago in Beijing. They added the last missing piece to the mantle as they captured the gold medal 6-4, 7-6 (7-2) over of Jo-Wilifred Tsonga and Michael Llodra of France. The Bryan brothers win 73 percent of their points on second serves and capitalized on 15 unforced errors from Tsonga and Llodra. 

Men’s Basketball

  • The U.S. was pushed to its limits by a game Lithuania squad but pulled away with a 99-94 win. Lebron James led the U.S. with 20 points, including 9 in the last four minutes when the game was in question. Carmelo Anthony added 20 more, with Kevin Durant adding 16 points. Chris Paul had a good all-around game with seven points, seven boards, six assists and 4 assists. Linas Kleiza had 25 points to lead Lithuania, who lead 84-82 with less than six minutes left. It was the first test that the U.S. faced in pool play. The U.S. faces Argentina on Monday. In other Olympic basketball, Russia upset favored Spain 77-74 to win Group B.

Track & Field

In a surprising turn at Olympic Stadium, defending 400 meter champ Lashawn Merritt pulled up halfway through his preliminary heat and will not be around to defend his title. Merritt was considered the favorite the 400, but struggled with a hamstring injury prior to the start of the track & field competition. His injury leaves the field wide open and threatens the U.S.’s streak of gold in this event for the first time since Moscow 1980 when the U.S. delegation boycotted the Games. 

Meanwhile in the sprints today, Usain Bolt, Yohan Black and Asafa Powell of Jamaica all advanced as did Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay of the U.S. The men’s and women’s 100 finals are scheduled for later today.

-B. Cox

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Day 7 Perspective: Big Day for U.S. Swimming, Present and Future Prevalent

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Face of the Future: Ledecky, 15, Blew Away Adlington and the rest of the field to capture gold in the 800 free.

This meet started out rough for USA Swimming with a couple of near misses in races and relays. As the meet went on, the Americans found strength through strong performances by Dana Vollmer, Missy Franklin and Rebecca Soni. They were even more fired up by big victories by Nathan Adrian and Tyler Clary. There have been new challenges from developing swimming powers in China and Japan. On the next to last night of swimming in these Games, USA Swimming reminded everyone who was in charge and what to look forward to four years from now in Rio.

The past and present was prevalent in the pool as Cullen Jones raced in the “splash and dash” 50 meters and was just out-touched by France’s Florent Manaudou in 21.34. Of course, the greatest sealed his last individual event as Michael Phelps came from seventh at the turn to win his third straight 100 fly in 51.21 over South Africa Chad Le Clos  and Russia’s Evgeny Korotyshkin  who tied for the silver. Much like he did last year when he tracked down Milorad Cavic, Phelps had to come from behind after a bad start and a mediocre first 50 to close and win. In his last individual race, the master saved yet another masterpiece for our viewing. 

Oh, was the future present. Missy Franklin, who already won 2 golds and a bronze, captured her third gold by shattering the world record in the 200 back 2:04:06. Teammate and fellow teenager Elizabeth Beisel won bronze in 2:06.55. The best performance in the pool, however, may have come from the most unlikely source. Katie Ledecky, not only the youngest member of USA Swimming, but the entire U.S. delegation at 15, decimated the field in the 800 free and broke a 24-year old American record. The youngster touched in 8:14.63, clearly outpacing the silver and bronze medalists, Spain’s Maria Belmonte-Garcia and Britain’s Rebecca Adlington. Ledecky’s virtuoso performance garnered praise from Adlington who called it “fantastic”. She served notice that she will be a force in distance swimming for years to come and in Rio and beyond.

As the meet went on, USA Swimming gained momentum and on full display was present and future of the program. As competition wraps up today, we will have a full picture as to where they stand after the water has settled.

-B. Cox

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