Coolest in London, fastest on the planet

RICHARD HINDS
Last updated 05:09 11/08/2012
Jamaica's Usain Bolt wins the men's 200m final at the London Olympics to complete back-to-back sprint doubles.
Reuters
DOUBLE-DOUBLE: Jamaica's Usain Bolt wins the men's 200m final at the London Olympics to complete back-to-back sprint doubles.

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You saw the picture. Usain Bolt in his Olympic village room with three Swedish handballers at 3am, having won the 100 metres final. Naturally, you had a touch of envy.

Of Bolt? Hardly.

You were jealous of the Swedish handballers who got to - we'll take their word for it - just hang out and do some Facebooking with the athlete who, with victory in the 200m yesterday, became the first man to defend the Olympic 100m-200m sprint double. And who has, just as easily, made the category "coolest performer in London" a one-man field.

Roger Federer? Cardigan wearer. Sally Pearson? Lovable dag. French judo giant Teddy Riner? Yes, but, well, it's still just judo. Kobe Bryant? Puppying after Aussie swimmers is just so not cool.

Who else but Bolt plays cricket with that epitome of brazen nonchalance Chris Gayle, and casually knocks him over? Who else feels like a bit of a kick-around, and starts serious murmurs he will trial at Manchester United, where he would make the Reds all-time King of Cool, Eric Cantona, look about as hip as Bert Newton.

Who else but Bolt could make the historic back-to-back sprint double seem only slightly more arduous than picking lint out of his bellybutton? Who else cruises to the line looking to his left, just to let everyone know his supposed rival Yohan Blake is not there - let alone the third Jamaican in that small island's amazing one-two-three - Warren Weir.

Bolt has one finger to his lips to silence those heretics who had seen Blake beat him in the 200 metres trials in Jamaica, and wondered if he was vulnerable. The time of 19.32 is a blistering irrelevance. Then he grabbed a camera from the crowd and started taking photos because, well, he probably does that well too.

Who else says before the race there is "no way" Blake will beat him in his pet event, and that winning the 200m would make him a "living legend", yet somehow remains on the right side of that thin line dividing insouciance and arrogance.

Bolt's gift is to make the extraordinary look effortless. The most popular parlour game in Beijing was to imagine what time Bolt would have clocked had he not shut off his motor with 30 metres to run and cruised over the line. Could a 9.62 have been 9.52 if he had - heaven forbid - tried? But, as extraordinary as his times might be, rating Bolt's performances by the digits on the clock is like judging Miss World on her NCEA scores. It is the aesthetic of ease that makes him so damn cool.

"It's what I wanted and I got it," Bolt said of his latest sprint double. And, well, of course he did.

Yet Bolt is not too cool to admit he sweats in private to make himself look so antiperspirant on the track. Never more so in this injury-interrupted season. "It's hard for me," he said, the words contradicting the actions. "I am really dedicated to my work. I knew what London meant to me, and I worked for it." Sprinters are the peacocks of athletics. Their pre-race preening is usually intended to psyche out rivals, and gain some minute advantage over their fiercest rivals. With Bolt, the routine is comic relief. An almost self-mocking expression of superiority from a man who found, at the world championships, the only danger is the starter's gun.

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Before the 100m final, Bolt wiggled two fingers in the motion of legs pumping along the track, wiped his brow in mock anxiety. Before the 200m, he raised his hand and rotated it in a sort of royal wave. The impression - vindicated yet again - was that he felt about as anxious as Richie McCaw might feel facing the Shirley under-10s.

Blake would have been, at most other Olympics, a superstar in his own right. Here, he has been made to look merely like an excellent stable pony. Two laudable silver medals, yet so much does he pale beside Bolt, you figure he is left Facebooking with three hairy Bulgarian weightlifters.

During every Olympics, inevitable fatuous assessments are made of what gold medals are worth from dial-a-quote agents - followed, a year or two later, by the lament of the same now disillusioned stars who are back shovelling fries in a hamburger shop. However, when it was reported Bolt would earn $2 million per-second for his victory in the 100m final, you wondered if he was being shortchanged. Charismatic, charming, fun-loving and - the one thing the British don't do at these Olympics - just oh-so-cool.

Who did Bolt Facebook with after the 200m? The Brazilian women's volleyball team? A posse of Russian heptathletes? Whoever it was, couldn't you just scratch their eyes out? FAIRFAX MEDIA

- FFX Aus

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