News20 Aug 2009

Bolt again, and again! 19.19 World record in Berlin


Usain Bolt of Jamaica with the clock showing the new 200m World Record in the Berlin Olympic Stadium (© Getty Images)

Just when you thought Usain Bolt could not surprise any more, he only goes and runs another World record - this time over 200m.

Bolt's winning time - 19.19* - looks more like a grandparent's year of birth than a time for the 200m, but although it may take a while to digest, those are the new World record figures.

Former 200m World record-holder Michael Johnson had said earlier in the day that he felt Bolt was too tired to improve on the record of 19.30. But then again, Bolt does not know the meaning of fatigue.

Back in 1996 when Johnson set the world record of 19.32, it was widely acknowledged as one of the toughest records on the books. Bolt bettered it in Beijing, of course, but with this latest improvement it must surely be considered one of the greatest performances of all time, along with his 9.58* in the 100m last Sunday.

When Bolt set his sprint World records in Beijing, he was clearly trying harder in the 200m compared to his easing-down exploits in his 9.69 run over 100m. But the -0.9m/s wind reading in the Beijing 200m final gave hope that, in better conditions, Bolt would be capable of improving the record in better conditions.

So with the promise of another momentous performance from Bolt - along with the highly anticipated High Jump duel between Blanka Vlasic and Ariane Freidrich - the Berlin Olympic stadium was near capacity.

And Bolt did not disappoint.

But his crack at breaking the record was almost over before it even began. Frenchman David Alerte false-started and Bolt registered a slow reaction of 0.345. Fortunately, he had another attempt to start and at the second time of asking he absolutely nailed it - 0.133, the fastest reaction of the field.

The lanky Jamaican flew around the bend and was surged into the lead as he shot into the home straight. At half way, Shawn Crawford of the USA was in a clear silver medal position.

But while Bolt maintained - and extended - his lead, Crawford was being caught by Panama's Alonso Edward and US team-mate Wallace Spearmon.

Bolt streaked ahead to stop the clock at 19.20, later rounded down to 19.19, while Edward and Spearmon succeeded in catching Crawford. Edward, who came into this year with a 20.62 PB, registered a South American Area record of 19.81 in second place and at 19 years old became the youngest ever World medallist in the men's 200m. His time is also a world age-19 best, breaking the 19.88 set by Bolt in 2006. And anyone who breaks one of Bolt's records is certainly set for a bright future.

Spearmon won his second successive World 200m bronze with a time of 19.85 - his third best ever clocking - while Crawford tightened up on the line with a time of 19.89.

It was the first time in history that four men had dipped under 19.90 in the same race and also the first time in which five men had broken 20 seconds.

Whoever said Berlin was a slow track?

Certainly not Bolt. While speaking to track-side interviewers after his lap of honour, he said: "It wasn't a good race, but it was a fast one."

Indeed it boiled down to a race between Bolt and the clock, and his winning margin of 0.62 seconds is by far the biggest in World Championships history.

Rounding out the top eight were Jamaican Steve Mullings (19.98) in fifth, Charles Clark of the USA in sixth (20.39), Azerbaijan youngster Ramil Guliyev in seventh (20.61) and Alerte in eighth with 20.68.

Bolt improved his previous 200m World record by 0.11, the same amount of time he chopped off his 100m record on Sunday. But, as was the case in Beijing, he ran tonight's race into a headwind (-0.3m/s), which again begs the question - can he go quicker in better conditions?

For his efforts here tonight, Bolt bagged $160,000 to add to his 100m winnings of $160,000 (both prize packets include the $100,000 World record bonus from TDK). That's roughly $11,123 for each second of his 100m and 200m performances combined.

Of course there will always be the speculation of what defending champion Tyson Gay could have achieved if he had accepted his place in the 200m. No doubt, he would have been Bolt's closest challenger, but even Gay himself would probably admit that 19.19 is just a little beyond what he is currently capable of.

It could prove to be beyond what any other human is capable of for years to come. Any human, that is, but the man himself - Usain Bolt.

Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF

* pending the usual ratification procedures

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