DAEGU, South Korea — It’s my fault, and only my fault, for false-starting in the 100, Usain Bolt said.
He also said, and he was not boasting nor was he being disrespectful, that he believes he would have run in the 9.6s or maybe 9.7-low and that without the false start his teammate Yohan Blake, who went on to win the 100 in 9.92, would have run 9.8.
He, Bolt, intimated that he would have won the 100. Absolutely, positively, unequivocally, he would have won.
That is because he, Usain Bolt, is the best.
After watching Bolt run the fourth-fastest 200 of all time Saturday night — 19.40, and from Lane 3, a lane he said he had never run in before, a tighter lane that required more from him than Lane 5 or 6, where he usually operates — who wants to argue the point?
That is the shame of the false-start rule that robbed everyone in the entire world of the thrill of watching Bolt in the 100.
That rule will be up for debate here Sunday. Don’t expect much. The IAAF president, Lamine Diack, told Reuters on Saturday there is “no chance” the rule will be changed by next summer’s London Olympics.
“I think it was Bolt disqualified by false start — I did not expect this. [But] I work for this rule. I like very much this rule. I vote for having this rule.”
Why? Two reasons. One, because of gamesmanship by the athletes in the blocks under the prior rule, which charged a first false start to the entire field; only a second led to disqualification of the particular athlete. Second, and perhaps even more important, such manipulation was dragging proceedings out, which made the timing of meets unpredictable for TV.
The president has a point.
But the president is not facing the withering criticism here that he would be facing were Bolt to have been booted from the Olympics themselves.
I haven’t canvassed anyone at NBC on the matter but it stands to reason that for the hundreds of millions of dollars the network paid for the rights to broadcast the London Games — they’d very much like to see Usain Bolt run the 100. If it takes an extra four minutes, I’m guessing they’d be willing to accommodate that.
Same goes for the other major networks in other countries around the globe.
The Olympics are different than the world championships. It’s that simple.
It’s not as easy to say, as the president would like, that the rule is the rule, and that’s that, particularly when his primary rationale — that it’s better for TV his way — doesn’t cut it.
In London in 2012, it wouldn’t be better for TV. In fact, it would be worse. Way worse.
The essential point is that the Olympics needs stars, and in particular track and field needs stars. Bolt and Michael Phelps are the biggest stars there are in the Olympic sphere. People want to see them. Why do you think NBC is paying hundreds of millions of dollars?
It’s not — and no offense to their fans — for team handball.
So let’s be real. Whether in Olympic Park or watching on TV, fans should be able to see Bolt do his thing.
That’s what Bolt was talking about at that news conference. He knows, we know, even Yohan Blake knows who the best sprinter in the world is.
It’s not Yohan Blake.
For public consumption, by the way, Bolt played it perfectly Saturday night. He said he would not be lobbying for a rules change. He said, “It has taught me a lesson to focus and to stay in the blocks,” adding, “You should wait and listen. The guy with the gun is the guy who gives the commands … I have learned and wish to move on from that.”
He learned so well, in fact, that his reaction time. 0.193, was by far the slowest in the field Saturday evening. And still he blew everybody away. Walter Dix of the United States took second, in 19.7. Christophe Lemaitre of France got third, in 19.8.
Bolt’s best time in 2011 in the 200, coming into the worlds, was 19.86. He improved that here by 46-hundredths of a second. The man is lights-out fantastic at championship meets.
Bolt now owns three of the four fastest-times ever in the 200. He ran 19.19 in Berlin, at the 2009 worlds. He ran 19.30 at the 2008 Games. Michael Johnson ran 19.32 in Atlanta, at the 1996 Games.
With a better lane in the finals, and better fitness, it’s not inconceivable that Bolt can run even faster than 19.19 in London next summer. “I’m going to work hard,” he said.
Everybody deserves to see the results of that. It’s that simple.