Sunday, January 3, 2010


Here is Usain Bolt -- breaking the world record for 100 metres.

This man is THERE, on the moment, at the moment.

Note: he's the last to go down into starting position.
Note: his back is up higher than other backs.
Note: his knee that touches the ground is lower than other knees.
Note: he takes off from the starter blocks, faster than anyone else.
Note: -- my God, he's in second place -- in first -- his acceleration is breathtaking -- unreal.

In Beijing, at the 2008 Olympics, after Bolt broke the 100 m world record, he pounded his chest in celebration, raised his arm, and saluted the heavens in a Zeus-like pose – that's why he' s called "Lightning Bolt."

An athlete from Trelawney -- a small place north of Kingston, Jamaica -- this 6ft.5, 212 lbs., twenty-three-year old, who broke the 100 m record at the Beijing Olympics, broke his own record in June 2009 in Berlin by 11 seconds, and then, in the 200 m, did it again.

Running, the simplest purest form of athleticism, depends on nothing but the runner's body and soul. As another winner, Michael Johnson, four-time Olympic gold medal sprinter, says -- "Bolt has made people stop and re-think what humans are capable of doing."

As a former athlete/choreographer, I notice what I've noted -- just as Ralph Mann, biomechanist for the U.S. track and field team, who studied Bolt's record-breaking runs, did -- "First off, when he leans over at the start, Bolt's butt is up higher than those of the other racers. That produces power from the big monster muscles in your body. The big old gluteus maximus, the big old hamstring. At 10 m into the Berlin 100, Bolt is already in second place. At 20 m, he's in first place. If he was in seventh, I would be impressed. Exceptional is too soft a word. He's astounding as a starter."

Bolt's long legs are an advantage. Mann suggests, "If you stop the tape at 4.8 sec. you'll see that his left knee is particularly high off the ground. This, combined with the length and strength of his legs, creates the power that leaves the others behind, and spells first place for Usain."

Is it Bolt's physical gifts, or his spirit that makes him special?

His background -- extreme poverty, a strong, loving father who taught him discipline and from whom he's inherited joie de vivre (French says it better than English), and life in a poor village trained him -- toiling in the fields at a very young age, fetching water, and running, sprinting, racing, day after day, many times a day, on a stone-strewn, grass track.

The story of child to victor, and what his future may bring to him, his family and to Jamaica -- it's a story we've heard, and seen a few times before. It means international fame, millions in earnings, and endorsements. This year, Bolt took in around $4 million in endorsement income from Puma, Gatorade and local phone provider, Digicel.

It means fans, paparazzi, books written about him, television interviews, maybe a movie, and of course, probing questions about his private life -- his girlfriend, is he on drugs, has he ever been, and does he take any performance-enhancing substances?

No, this guy is clean! Yes, he passed every drug test. But we know about other athletes who claim they've never been on drugs, and the temptations that come with sudden wealth and fame -- the offers and possessions that are at your door when you're an international celebrity.

What comes to mind is our Tiger, the inspiration and hero to blacks as well as whites. As I read about Bolt, I can't help remembering young Tiger, and his Dad -- all the moments we've seen, shared as Tiger rose, and became the Tiger Woods whom we've loved, and admired, and lauded for years.

Life has brought us "Lighting Bolt" -- to watch, observe as he grows and dances -- he loves to dance. He's already sharing his wealth with the poor in his country, with his "9.58 Super Party."

The money raised by the event will help refurbish the health clinic Bolt's already established in in his home village. The party has already turned into a national annual celebration, with Jamaicans and tourists flocking to celebrate with Bolt at the old sugar plantation he bought, near his home, where slaves once labored.

"Joy to the world," we sing at this time of year. And that's what I'm feeling and hoping. Joy to the world that another super marvelous, extraordinary hero/athlete is here, for our kids, and us to observe, enjoy, share, admire.

Like Tiger woods, folks. We don't have an ending to Tiger's story, he's young and he has miles to go ... But wow -- wonder of wonders -- we'd got Usain Lightning Bolt, lighting up the sky.

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