20 AUG 2008 General News

Beijing 2008 - Day Six Summary - 20 Aug

Usain Bolt with his world record figures (Getty Images)Usain Bolt with his world record figures (Getty Images) © Copyright
Wednesday was always going to be a slow day at the Bird's Nest. With no morning session, only three finals in the evening, and Liu Xiang not running in the men's 110m hurdle semifinals, it was bound to a let-down after the three World Records witnessed by capacity crowds earlier in the week.

We're joking, of course.

Usain Bolt 19.30

It's easy to wax rhapsodic about the fastest 200m ever run. We'll dispense with the poetry, or at least try: Usain Bolt's 100m World Record was only four days old. He was relaxed and joking in the blocks for the race he still considers his specialty, the 200m. There were no false starts, and Bolt got out of the blocks in lane 5 with a leisurely .182s reaction time. He ran a solid corner and arrived in the homestretch with perhaps a full running stride on Wallace Spearmon out in lane 9.

Then he got down to business and ran away from the field. For the first time in these Olympics, Usain Bolt ran hard through the finish line, and stopped the finish line clock at 19.31. That was then corrected to 19.30. Bolt, voluble and expressive under any circumstances, flopped over on his back on the track in disbelief. Then he pointed at the scoreboard. Is that real? his face asked.

Michael Johnson, who held the former world record of 19.32, suggested earlier this year that his protege, Jeremy Wariner, might take away his 400m World record this year, but it was that otherworldly 200m which celebrated it's twelfth birthday as the fastest in history a week before the Beijing Games opened which has come down first.

In a bizarre footnote to the scorching race, both of the apparent minor medalists - Churandy Martina and Wallace Spearmon - were eventually disqualified for lane violations. Left in silver and bronze were the pair who crossed the line fourth and fifth, Shawn Crawford (19.96) and Walter Dix (19.98) respectively.

Olympic Record for Miankova

Before Bolt put the hammer down, Aksana Miankova of Belarus threw it out and up. On the fourth attempt of the women's Hammer Throw final, Miankova spun the weight out to 74.40m, the second-longest throw in Olympic history. It looked like Miankova's massive fling might have closed out the contest - the infield was pockmarked with craters around the 71m and 72m marks - but then Cuba's Yipsi Moreno pitched her sixth and final attempt all the way to 75.20m, well beyond Olga Kuzenkova's 75.02m record from Athens.

Miankova wasn't done, though. With only one chance to reclaim gold, she delivered a titanic 76.34m throw, over a metre beyond Moreno's, and hammered her own name into Olympic history.

Moreno's fifth throw, a 74.70m mark which moved her into second, displaced Wenxiu Zhang of China, whose attempts, like those of Chinese athletes throughout the Games, were preceded with raucous chants of "Jiaoyou!" from the crowd. Zhang's second-round mark of 74.32m stood as the bronze medal throw.

Jamaica adds yet another gold

Sheena Tosta of the USA looked in control of the women's 400m Hurdles, but that turned out only to last 300m. Coming off that corner, Jamaica's Melanie Walker drew even with Tosta, then took a lead with one hurdle to go. After clearing that last hurdle, Walker ran away from Tosta like Bolt away from pretty much anyone, and added a second gold to Jamaica's haul for the night. Her winning time of 52.64 was only an Olympic record (three finals, three Olympic records, a perfect sweep for the night) and a Jamaican national record, so perhaps not as impressive as a dozen-year-old World record, but it did achieve another historic milestone for Jamaica.

At the end of Day 6, this tiny Caribbean island with a sprinting tradition leads the medal table in athletics, with four gold medals (the same count as massive Russia) and three silvers. If medal tables were weighted inversely to population, Jamaica would be uncatchable, and they still have the women's 200m and both 4x100m relays to look forward to.

Parker Morse for the IAAF