There is, however, one significant difference. Bolt did it while he was racing.
With seven strides remaining in a 100 meter dash that must surely rank as one of the most memorable moments in modern Olympic history, Bolt looked around and saw – absolutely no one.
In Athens, we needed super slow-motion just to distinguish between who finished first and fourth in the closest 100-meter dash in Olympic history, by some measures. Tonight, it seems like we’re still waiting for the rest of the field to finish.
In the 100 meter dash, it seems, 0.2 seconds – the gap between Bolt and the world-class sprinter who finished second and will forever remain completely anonymous – is roughly the difference between 2008 and the Triassic.
Well after Bolt left the track, the scoreboard was still frozen, as if it, too, could not comprehend what it had just witnessed:
World Record: 9.69 seconds.
Had China been allowed to sit down at some cosmic diner and order what sort of Olympics it would like to have, it could not have chosen better than this.
China nearly doubling its closest competitor at the top of the gold-medal table after the first week?
Michael Phelps repeating – and perhaps tomorrow surpassing – one of the most legendary Olympic feats: seven gold medals in a single Games? And doing it in a race where, even watched frame by frame, the truth of his first touch in today’s 100 meter butterfly seems impossible?
A 100-meter dash that seems the culmination of everything humankind has promised since first standing on two feet?
It is the Hyperbole Olympics – a Games suitably epic for the “Lord of the Rings” generation.
I confess I know woefully little about track. Every Olympics is a crash course. But I also know I have never in my life seen anything like that.
Those who are far more intelligent about track than I say Bolt can only get better. He is only 21. He is, by nature and training, built for the 200 meter dash.
To which I ask: Is it possible to lap the field in the 200 meter dash?
On Wednesday, Aug. 20, perhaps Bolt will be able to start his celebration after the first 100 meters. After these Olympics, perhaps the rest of the sprinting world will need a handicap system – as in, Bolt must now run while knitting.
Or perhaps the governing body of world track and field will have to make Chicken McNuggets a banned substance. At the press conference, Bolt described his day: Woke up at 11, watched TV, had some nuggets, took a nap, ate some more nuggets.
You can be sure that on Aug. 20, the McDonald’s in the athlete’s village will be very busy.