DAEGU, South Korea -- Seven reasons, among many, to make a little time for the World Track and Field Championships, which begin Saturday in this city of 2.5 million people, 145 miles southeast of Seoul.
As sprinting announcements go, this one isn't official until all the hamstrings and egos are actually in the starting blocks, but barring a late withdrawal, the 100 meters at the DN Galan Diamond League track meet in Stockholm on Friday night could be the highlight of the season. Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt has announced that he will be sprinting against a field that includes his countryman Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay of the U.S., a loaded roster that the sport rarely sees outside of Olympics and world championships. Since athletes often duck and dodge rivals to protect their reputation, Bolt's participation is further sign that -- with his most recent defeat coming in 2008 -- he has no serious challengers.
At 39, Allen Johnson decided to retire from the sport he loves. It would be easiest to review the career of one of history's finest hurdlers simply by scanning his astounding resume. The 1996 Olympic champion in the 110 highs was, after all, a four-time world outdoor champ and a gold medal winner in 1995, 1997, 2001 and 2003. He came back to win bronze in Helsinki in 2005, 10 years after winning his first title. He took second at the world indoor championships in Valencia two years ago, when he was 37.
DES MOINES, Iowa -- In warm twilight Thursday at Drake Stadium, 16 men advanced from first-round heats into Friday night's semifinals of the 100 meters at the USA Track and Field national championships. A modest gathering of track fans cheered politely. It was the first round, on the first night. Nothing big was expected.
BERLIN -- The world's fastest man is now even faster, swifter still than the Usain Bolt who sprinted and danced to an Olympic victory at the Beijing Olympics last year. The Jamaican superstar fired off another world record at the world championships in Berlin Sunday, lowering his own 100-meter mark to 9.58 seconds from the 9.69 he ran in winning the Olympics. Unlike last summer, Bolt ran through the finish line, waiting until after his moment in history to celebrate. He was gamely chased by a rejuvenated Tyson Gay, the U.S. rival and defending world champion who was felled by a hamstring injury last year and established himself as a worthy challenger to Bolt with some strong early-season performances. Gay finished in a solid 9.71 seconds, a time only Bolt has ever surpassed in history. Jamaica's Asafa Powell finished third in 9.84.
BEIJING -- Do the eyes lie or do the eyes tell the truth? If they tell the truth, the Olympic 100 meters is over. Break out the gold medal, give it to 21-year-old Jamaican world record holder Usain Bolt and run the race for silver and bronze. Check that; give the silver to his countryman, Asafa Powell and run the race for bronze.
BEIJING -- In the last weekend in June, Tyson Gay finally seemed to have found his path to the Olympic Games. Less than a month after he was crushed in the 100 meters by 21-year-old Jamaican Usain Bolt's world record of 9.72 seconds at the Reebok Track Classic in New York, Gay won the U.S. Olympic Trials.
The Beijing games beckoned, far in the distance, as three sprinters aligned themselves last winter for a run at the grandest title in track and field -- Olympic 100-meter champion. They had clearly defined roles: the favorite, the record holder, the upstart.
EUGENE, Ore -- On Saturday morning, no less an authority on track and field than Michael Johnson conceded the future of the 100- and 200-meter races to 21-year-old Jamaican Usain Bolt. There is evidence to support Johnson's theory.
On a warm, breezy afternoon in late May, sprinters clogged the faded orange surface of a training track adjacent to the National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica. World-class athletes mixed with young children wearing tiny racing spikes, a culture worshipping a sport that struggles elsewhere. Coaches shouted instructions and punched stopwatches. Music drifted across from a nearby neighborhood called Nannyville. And all eyes found Usain Bolt, a majestic, 6' 5" 21-year-old poised on the cusp of history.
NEW YORK -- By the time the night sky cleared over Icahn Stadium on Randall's Island and the 43-minute-long thunderstorm rolled eastward Saturday night, Jamaican Usain Bolt stepped into his starting blocks, weathered a false start and added a dash of lightning.
Sprinter Tyson Gay was expected to chase three gold medals at the Olympic Games in Beijing. A year ago at the World Track and Field Championships in Osaka, Japan, Gay rushed to the first page of history by winning the 100 meters, (humbling world record holder Asafa Powell of Jamaica) 200 meters and anchoring Team USA's gold medal-winning 4x100-meter relay.
Justin Gatlin has two jobs. One is to run fast, performing in the manner expected of the reigning Olympic 100-meter champion by constantly testing the limits of human speed. The other is to help rebuild the fragile credibility of professional track and field by constantly suggesting--BALCO taught us that you can't prove such things--that he runs without the assistance of steroids. These are heavy and often contrary endeavors.
A sprinter writes his legacy in contrary moments, trying to mix desperate athletic passion with the calm required to sustain perfect running technique. The body wants to thrash like a child on the playground, flailing toward the finish line. The mind must make it chill, for thrashing is slow and inefficient and leads to defeat. In fractions of a second, champions are divided from the merely swift.
It is a fact of life in modern track and field that major events are defined as much by the athletes who are absent as by those who are present. This is the unfortunate reality that attends a sport where euphoria is attended by suspicion and fans are advised to embrace a primal and terrific game with great caution, lest they be burned for loving too much.