Accessibility links

Jamaican Sprinters Bolt to the Head of the Pack

  • Anita Powell

For a nation so small, Jamaica has an embarrassment of riches at this year's Olympics. The Caribbean nation of less than 3 million people has not one, not two, but three world-class, record-shattering male sprinters. And all of them say they’re going for the gold.

The fastest man in the world has a simple goal for the Olympics: he wants to be a legend.

Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt said Thursday in London that he has his sights set on winning the gold again this year, after a smashing performance in Beijing. He set an unbelievable 9.58-second world record in the 100 meters in 2009.

If you’re having trouble visualizing that, consider this: he ran at about 36 kilometers an hour, or 16 miles an hour. A runner at that pace would finish a marathon in just over an hour -- assuming the runner didn’t drop dead first.

Bolt, who has been dubbed “Mr. Cool” for his relaxed demeanor, seemed confident of success. He was also recently announced to be the Jamaican team's flagbearer at Friday's opening ceremony. “The biggest aim is to become a legend, and I think I can do it, so I’m on it,” Bolt said.

But close behind him is fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake, who only last month made an impressive 9.75-second finish in a race.

Blake, who happens to be Bolt’s closest training partner, has delivered a string of impressive performances in the last year, including a World Championship-winning performance in South Korea. Bolt was disqualified from that contest after he sprang from the blocks before the starting gun.

Bolt acknowledged that in this one regard, he is just average. “I’ve learned not to worry about starting anymore. I ’ve sat down and talked with my coach, and we have came up with the conclusion that back in the days, I was never a good starter, I‘m never going to be a great starter, so I should get past that and just focus on just running. So, I’m over this start, I’m over the blocks, I’m just focusing on getting an average start and just going out there and running, and doing what I do best," Bolt said.

And then there is Asafa Powell. Powell first broke the 100-meter world record in 2005, with a time of 9.77 seconds. He beat that in 2007, with 9.74 seconds. He also bragged about being “one of the best starters out there” Thursday, sitting next to Bolt in a packed East London warehouse.

The Jamaican team has been set back by injuries, though. But team doctor Winston Dawes told Olympic organizers this week that the athletes are in top shape and expect to break records.

The first 100-meter men's event is scheduled for Saturday, August 4.