There will be no sub-19 200m clocking for Usain Bolt

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With his retirement looming, the infamous Olympian Usain Bolt has no regrets despite not managing to accomplish the almost superhuman feat of running under 19 seconds for the 200m.

Having smashed his own 200m world record in 2009 at the World Championships in Berlin, after previously eclipsing Michael Johnson’s longstanding record, the Lightning Bolt knows that it would have been no bolt from the blue to have ducked below 19 seconds.

Earlier this year Bolt still had his sights on breaking the barrier: “I’d love to try to go sub-19. That’s the only thing I would really, really want because that’s one of my goals.”

Last summer in Rio, Bolt once again looked head and shoulders above the field, both physically and in terms of speed, but his 19.78 second victory is his slowest time for a senior global 200m title.

As the Jamaican crossed the line he grimaced when he saw the time and of course he could have gone a lot faster having sauntered to the same time in the semi-finals, smiling and joking on the home straight with Canada’s Andre de Grasse. 

Speaking to the BBC, Bolt said “I ran hard, but when I came into the straight my body would not respond to me. But it’s just because I’m getting older. I’m not so young and fresh, but it’s just one of those things.”

Though there was heavy rain prior to the victory, so the weather conditions were far from optimal. Before the race, BBC pundit Michael Johnson predicted that Bolt would run 19.4 or 19.5 in the final based on his semi-final performance.

But that is still light years away from his own world best of 19.19, which is a couple of tenths outside of what Bolt dreamed of doing.

Yet the charismatic frontman of track and field has achieved far more than breaking world records. He has laid claim to a triple-treble of Olympic gold medals and exercised a near total dominance over the sport since 2008.

Added to that he will have his eye on one more medals record. Having been disqualified in 2011 for a false start in the World Championship 100m final, Bolt holds three gold medals in the 100m World Championships, the same number as Carl Lewis and Maurice Greene.

Now with the opportunity to surpass both Lewis and Greene in this area he will be focussing his efforts solely on the 100m.

“After last season, I kind of figured out that no matter how hard I work at this point, it probably is going to be hard to get the 200-meter world record.”

“The 200 meters are very hard work and I’m coming to the end of my career, I’m not trying to do too much work.”

In a similar vein, Bolt’s closest rival in recent years, Justin Gatlin, will also be stepping away from the 200m as this could be his last chance to dethrone Bolt.

Now that Bolt has stated that “this season is pretty much mainly for the fans” he might not be able to get what he really wanted from his favourite event, the 200m this year at the World Championships in London could be wide open.

Perhaps a new star will come to the fore such as Miguel Francis of Antigua and Barbuda who ran a blistering unofficial 19.67 seconds but had to bow out of the Olympics due to injury.

Bolt, however, knows that the challenge of running sub-19 might not be possible for him, so now he has to wait and see if one of the future stars can do the unthinkable.

“It wouldn’t be a regret because no one would have thought I would have run 19.19, not even myself” he said.

It may take time, but as we saw with Wayde van Niekerk’s remarkable annihilation of Michael Johnson’s 17-year-old 400m world record, the sub-19 second mark will surely one day be a very real possibility.


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First published on: 9 December, 2016 12:00 am