Bolt Rides to the Rescue as Track’s Golden Savior
MOSCOW – Yes, Usain Bolt dazzled again.
He usually does on the biggest of stages, taking all suspense out of races early and leaving everyone else to compete for medals other than gold.
Unlike Bolt’s races, however, these world championships packed plenty of drama. Some of it wasn’t so much for race finishes as the finish on the fingernails of two Swedish athletes. To show support for Russian gays and lesbians in the face of an anti-gay law, they went with rainbow nail polish during competition.
That prompted a complaint from Russian pole vault great Yelena Isinbayeva, who said she supported Russia’s law and that Russians have “normal” heterosexual relations.
Isinbayeva later backed off her remarks, saying she may have been misunderstood because she was speaking in English instead of her native language.
On the track, Bolt was the show once more. When is that not the case? He picked up three more titles and is now the most decorated male athlete in world championship history with eight golds and two silvers, moving past Carl Lewis (eight golds, one silver, one bronze).
Fellow Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce also earned three gold medals as the proud sprinting country swept the men’s and women’s 100, 200 and 4×100 relays.
Here are five things we learned after nine days of competition at the world championships:
1. BOLT SAVES THE DAY: With all of the doping scandals of late, track needed someone to rescue the sport.
Enter Bolt, even wearing his country’s flag as a cape, just like Superman.
Not only did he breeze to wins, he did so in memorable fashion. He won the 100 in a downpour, complete with lightning before and after the race.
For a moment, he helped blow away the dark clouds – Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell, Sherone Simpson and Veronica Campbell-Brown all tested positive for a banned substance and didn’t attend the worlds.
“I’m just doing my part by running fast, winning titles and letting the world know you can do it clean,” Bolt said.
2. MR. & MRS. EATON: The Eatons skipped a honeymoon to win medals.
First, Olympic champion Ashton Eaton took the decathlon crown. Not to be outdone, his wife, Brianne Theisen Eaton of Canada, captured silver in the heptathlon.
The couple went to the University of Oregon and married July 13. Now, it may be time to relax.
“Go lay on the beach,” Theisen Eaton said. “But if we did that, I’d just shut my eyes and in 10 minutes he would go, ‘How much longer are we going to lay here? Let’s go play volleyball or something.’ He can’t sit around too long.”
3. RAINBOW BRIGHT: Isinbayeva has set 28 world records and won three world titles, including one in front of a boisterous home crowd last week. Only now she may be remembered more for what she voiced in a news conference that what she’s vaulted. The two-time Olympic champion who will serve as “mayor” of one of the Sochi Games villages spoke out in favor of her country’s anti-gay stance.
“If we allow to promote and do all this stuff on the street, we are very afraid about our nation because we consider ourselves like normal, standard people,” Isinbayeva said in English. “We just live with boys with woman, woman with boys.
“We never had any problems, these problems in Russia, and we don’t want to have any in the future.”
Two Swedes – high jumper Emma Green Tregaro and sprinter Moa Hjelmer – sported rainbow colors on their nails to offer support for gay rights. In the final, Green Tregaro went with red nails after track officials said the earlier gesture might violate the meet’s code of conduct.
“It was harder to not paint them in the rainbow than it was to choose to paint them,” Green Tregaro said.
4. YOUNG AMERICANS: The United States boasted a youthful squad that included 17-year-old Mary Cain, who finished 10th in the 1,500. Still, the Americans came away with 25 medals, eight more than Russia. But only six of them were gold as Russia edged them with seven. It’s the first time the U.S. failed to at least tie for the gold-medal lead since the first world championships in Helsinki 30 years ago.
“Everybody is going to say, ‘Well, Russia had more gold medals than we did,'” U.S. men’s coach Mike Holloway said. “But if you look at the youth of this team, there’s a very bright future for U.S. track and field.”
5. RELAY WOES: Passing the baton remains problematic for the U.S.
The women’s 4×400 and 4×100 relays and the men’s 4×100 all had hiccups on their way to silver medals. The women were missing Allyson Felix for both relays after she tore her hamstring in the 200 final.
In contrast, the men’s 4×400 did successfully get it around to capture a fifth straight world crown.