The greatest 100m race in history took place at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin last night. I’m just glad I remembered to watch. (And if you didn’t, see the video embedded above.) As you recall, the top US sprinter Tyson Gay won the 100m and 200m races in the 2007 World Championships. But Gay injured himself at the US Olympic Trials a year ago. In the trials, he ran a wind-aided 9.68 100m, the fastest time ever but not a record because of the wind. Then, in 200m races, he had a hamstring injury, so he didn’t qualify for the Olympic 200m. And because of his injury, Gay didn’t qualify in the Olympics for the 100m final. Meanwhile, Usain Bolt had established himself in the leadup to the Olympics as the surprise 100m favorite after setting a new world record of 9.72 at the end of May (2008) in New York.
At the Olympics last August, Bolt shocked the world by winning the 100m with still another world record, 9.69, even though he celebrated with about 20m to go and didn’t even run all out to the line. That set the stage for yesterday’s race, with Tyson Gay back in top form, along with Asafa Powell, Bolt’s fellow Jamaican, whose 2007 world record of 9.74 is what Bolt broke last year.
So what happened? Bolt ran 9.58, totally blowing away his old record. Gay was close, so I knew at the finish that either Bolt didn’t run a great time or Gay ran the race of his life. It was the latter. Gay’s time of 9.69 has been bettered (among official, non-wind-aided times) only by Bolt’s two incredible runs. Powell was third in 9.84.
I’m just glad I remembered to watch it. Track and field gets so little coverage in the US — except during the Olympics — that even the World Championships (held in odd-numbered years) get lost amid all the other parochial sporting goings on. And this past weekend, my sports attention was almost entirely given to the PGA. I watched a little golf coverage on Thursday, hours on Friday as Tiger finished his round to take a seemingly commanding lead, and many hours more on Saturday and Sunday.
But I did catch some of NBC’s track coverage on Saturday — men’s shot put and qualifying for the men’s 100m. Yesterday Gail and I were glued to the golf coverage, but at around noon our time I started checking on track and field. We stumbled on a dramatic moment whose context we didn’t understand at the time. It was the final event of the women’s heptathlon, the 800m run, and German Jennifer Oeser, in position for the event’s silver medal, had fallen. When we switched from the golf, she had just gotten up and was zooming up towards the front of the pack. She did well enough to hold onto the silver, behind Englishwoman Jessica Ennis. But we didn’t learn this at the time. Once the race ended, we returned to the golf. And when we came back to track at 12:35, the intended start time of the men’s 100m, there was a delay because the heptathlon medalists were jogging around the stadium to the cheers of the crowd. The officials finally had to get the women off the track so the men’s race could start, which it did at least 10 minutes late. Tearing ourselves away from the golf was hard, but I’m thankful that we did.
I’ll say something about the golf in another post. Painful afternoon.