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Usain Bolt did it again. On Sunday, at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin, he obliterated his 100 meter record set at the Beijing Olympics a year ago, lowering it from 9.69 to 9.58. Today, in winning the 200 meter race, he lowered his record, also set a year ago at the Olympics, from 19.30 to 19.19. This may be more shocking.

Recall that in 1996, the great sprinter Michael Johnson lowered Pietro Mennea’s 200m record, a record that had stood for 17 years, from 19.72 to 19.66 at the US Olympic Trials. Then he surprised the world later that summer at the Olympics in Atlanta by running 19.32. In the years that followed, no one came close, until Bolt ran 19.30 in Beijing. And no one had been close in the last year, including Bolt, until today. His run suggests that the day of an under-19-second 200 meter may not be far off. It also seems plausible, given how far back everyone else was, that no one else will produce times like this for another decade.

I’ve been watching the coverage of the World Championships on Versus each evening, time shifted on the DVR. But today I wanted to see the 200m live, so I stayed home and watched it as it happened. Shortly after the 200m, there was another great race, the men’s 110 meter hurdles. It was almost a three-way tie, and none of the three leaders knew who won for a while. Ryan Brathwaite, a 19-year-old from Barbados, won in 13.14, with Americans Terrence Trammell and David Payne just behind at 13.15. Trammell was awarded second over Payne, but it was impossible to see any separation on the replays. And they never showed the decisive photos on the TV coverage. Maybe they didn’t have access. I don’t know. I just know that the TV production is wanting in many ways.

I’ll mention two items that have annoyed me about the coverage, though I should note first of all that I’m just pleased that the final 2 or 2 1/2 hours of each night’s activity from Berlin is shown live here. Better that with coverage that lapses at times than no live coverage at all.

1. It’s a given that in US coverage of any race over 1500m, we will not be allowed to watch the entire race uninterrupted. The shortest men’s race above 1500m is the 3000m steeplechase, whose winning times are on the order of 8 minutes. Kenyans almost always win the major steeplechase races. We were told early on that the Kenyans might sweep the three medal positions. Then, just as the race was developing, we broke away for coverage of some field event, women’s high jump preliminary round perhaps. Worth watching. I would have liked to see more. But after the race, please. When they returned, it had become a four-man race. But the announcer never really made clear who was who among the three Kenyans, perhaps because he couldn’t differentiate them himself, and as far as I could tell, he got the call wrong. A Frenchman mixed it up with the three Kenyans in the final lap, ultimately finishing third, but the announcer seemed to say that Mateelong fell back to 4th, even though as far as I could tell, Mateelong finished 2nd. (Kemboi first, Mateelong second, the Frenchman Tahri third, Koech fourth, in times ranging from 8:00.43 to 8:01.26.)

2. The women’s 800 meter final last night was as great a race as one will ever see. The 18-year-old South African Caster Semenya simply ran away from the field, winning by almost 2 1/2 seconds over the Kenyan Janeth Jepkosgei — defending world championi from two years ago and Olympic silver medalist from a year ago, and Jepkosgei just barely held off the charging British runner Jennifer Meadows. Semenya’s time was 1:55.45. She looked like she was out for a training run. Jepkosgei ran 1:57.90, Meadows 1:57.93, and the Ukrainian Yuliya Krevsun was just behind in 4th at 1:58.00. They were all struggling. It’s like Semenya was from another planet. Or another sex, which it turns out has in fact been a matter of investigation, but the announcers didn’t see fit to let us know about this until after she won. It’s been big news today, so I needn’t review the matter. (See for instance the NYT article here.) The investigation was begun three weeks ago and is ongoing.

Three more days. Be sure to watch.

Categories: Sports
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