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TRACK AND FIELD

Usain Bolt smashes world record in the 200

The Jamaican's time of 19.19 breaks the old mark by .11 seconds.

August 21, 2009|Philip Hersh

BERLIN — As they passed time before the start of the 200 meters, Usain Bolt feigned a jab to the jaw of U.S. sprinter Wallace Spearmon, who ducked it with a little movement of his head.

If only it were that easy to get away from Bolt's punch on the track.

Like everyone else, Spearmon is nothing more than a sparring partner, real or pantomimed, for the Jamaican who is knocking out rivals, world records and concepts of human limits as if they were so many palookas.

By setting a world record of 19.19 seconds in Thursday's 200-meter final at the world championships, Bolt took the sport into FloJo territory, where a single sprinter is light-years rather than hundredths of a second ahead of the past and the present.

That is the area Florence Griffith Joyner staked out with world records in the 100 and 200 meters that have not been dealt even a glancing blow since she set them in 1988.

Beginning with his winning time of 9.58 in the 100 meters Sunday, Bolt has taken off 11/100ths from each of the already-startling world records he set at the 2008 Olympics.

No one in 88 years had lowered the 100 mark by more than Bolt did here.

He won the 200 meters by 62/100ths of a second over Alonso Edward of Panama (19.81), with Spearmon third in 19.85. Defending 200 champion Tyson Gay, beaten soundly by Bolt in the 100, had skipped the longer race because of a lingering groin problem.

No one in the previous 11 world championships had won the 200 by more than the margin of 0.33 that Michael Johnson accomplished twice -- the Michael Johnson whose seemingly untouchable world record of 19.32 Bolt broke in Beijing.

"Just because you get beat doesn't mean you stop trying," Spearmon said. "I will put a picture of Usain Bolt above my bed for motivation at night."

The stylish Griffith Joyner was track's poster athlete two decades ago, but she never competed on a track again after the 1988 Olympics. When she died of a heart seizure in 1998 at age 38, her legacy included unanswered questions about how she suddenly went from a very good sprinter to a superhuman one at age 28.

Bolt, who turns 23 today, is raising the same questions, with the primary difference that he apparently will keep running for years more in his professed quest to be a legend -- or at least knighted, an honor that can accrue to a citizen of the British Commonwealth.

"It will be a great thing for the queen to dub me, 'Sir Usain Bolt,' " he said.

Bolt knows there are doubts on his escutcheon, no matter that everyone says he has a freakish combination of stride length and foot turnover.

"I don't get offended because year after year, people run fast and then get tested positive, so I know that always be in the sport," said Bolt, who never has tested positive. "I am trying to clear it out by continuing to run fast and be clean, and one day people will stop asking that question."

Bolt's victory Thursday earned him another fast $160,000 ($100,000 for the record, $60,000 for the win) and continued a two-year Jamaican rout of the United States in the sprints. The islanders are seven for seven gold in the 100 and 200 at the 2008 Olympics and the 2009 worlds, and they also have added gold in both women's hurdle events.

Defending world 200 champion Allyson Felix is the final sprint hope for the United States. Her main rival in today's final? Olympic champion Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica.

With no Jamaican to worry about, Trey Hardee of Austin, Texas, recorded a personal best of 8,790 points to take the decathlon title. Hardee had been contending for an Olympic medal last year until he failed to clear a height in the pole vault.

"The decathlon is a two-day physical and emotional battle with yourself and with the field," Hardee said. "I'm getting better at that and getting better at all 10 events."

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phersh@tribune.com

twitter.com/olyphil

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BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX

100 METERS - 9.58

WORLD RECORD

200 METERS - 19.19

WORLD RECORD

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