August 29, 2011
Posted: 1532 GMT
Take a trip with me in my imaginary time machine, back to an era of circus entertainment. Listen to the moustachioed ring master bellow, “Roll Up, roll up. Come and see the fastest man on earth. So quick, he’s known as the ‘Lightning Bolt’ - speedier than anyone in history. Roll up, roll up.”
The crowds swarm to see the star attraction, abuzz with excitement. What will this freak of human sprinting do? How fast can the Lightning Bolt strike this time, they wonder.
The ring master cracks his whip; our hero sets off, then, oh dear: “Sorry folks, our star attraction started a fraction of one second too early. The race is off.” Read the rest of this entry »
December 17, 2010
Posted: 1534 GMT
CNN's World Sport will be broadcasting its predictions for 2011 in upcoming shows between December 31-January 2. In the fifth of a series of preview blogs, Paul Gittings takes a look at sprint star Usain Bolt's prospects at the World Athletics Championships.
The 2011 track and field season will be crucial in the build-up to the 2012 Olympics, and the sport’s top stars will want to lay down a marker with their performances in the major championships.
The question on everyone’s lips will be: Can Usain Bolt repeat his triple triumphs at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2009 Berlin world championships - and again break world records to boot?
August 25, 2009
Posted: 1649 GMT
The crowd cheers wildly as athlete Caster Semenya strides through the arrivals hall at O.R. Tambo Airport in Johannesburg.
Despite the police's best efforts, a mass of eager South Africans swirl around her and her escort, trying to touch the teenager or even just get a snap of her arrival on their mobile phones.
The cheering and excited dancing continue outside as Semenya and her fellow-athletes board their bus.
A few bemused tourists wheel their luggage carts gingerly through the jubilant throng looking uncertainly from side to side.
The bus circles the airport and drops Semenya and her team-mates onto a stage erected on a parking lot at the side of the airport.
The crowd has reassembled in front of the stage and they cheer wildly as the politicians, who have come to greet her, make speeches and a popular South African hit song blares out through the chill spring air.
Semenya herself says nothing, but she appears composed despite the chaos surrounding her.
She smiles gently at the crowd. For a rural 18-year-old with little previous exposure to the limelight, she is clearly bearing up well.
Her enthusiastic welcome is a sign of just how the controversy surrounding her gold medal win in Berlin has enraged most South Africans.
The story of this shy, somewhat uncertain young athlete is, at its core, a story about identity.
Firstly, of course, the fact that her gender has been called into question raises uncomfortable, but universal, questions about the nature of gender and who has the right to define that identity.
It raises crucial issues, too, about the politics of sport and the scientific ethics involved in the testing of athletes.
But, crucially, Caster’s rapturous welcome home says something about what it means to be a black South African in post-apartheid South Africa.
Many in the West might find it difficult to comprehend the depth of the rage and the perceived insult at her gender being questioned.
To black South Africans, the testing is a bitter reminder of past European colonial arrogance when Africans were regarded as less than fully human, their bodies objects of scientific curiosity to be displayed in museums to satisfy the novelty-seeking instincts of crowds in Europe.
Many feel that the west cannot accept Semanya's win because they cannot come to terms with the notion of Africans achieving excellence.
This rage is difficult to counter. Who can here say exactly where the politics of sport and the politics of race and of gender begin and end?
These debates will rage for months, and their after-effects linger for years to come. But to understand the deep roots of black South African outrage at their heroine being subjected to this testing one should travel to the far north of the country, to the rural heartland of Limpopo Province where she grew up.
On the edge of Fairlea village is a dusty football pitch where Semanya began to first play and then to run. The field is hard and uneven, covered in stones, at the edges broken glass and rusty cans litter the dry grass. A herd of goats wanders across the bare earth grazing for whatever sustenance they can find.
The poverty of this African field is a long way from the immaculate training grounds of Europe and the west.
It is astonishing that an athlete of Semenya’s achievements could have begun her career here, so far behind her competitors, and have risen so high to have beaten them on their own tracks.
Semenya’s victory means something much more than winning a gold medal, it is a triumph of hope, a feat that celebrates being African and to have achieved struggling against such hardships. Africa will not easily let the west forget that.
August 22, 2009
Posted: 1453 GMT
Can someone please help me write this blog?!? I am finding it difficult to come up with words to describe what Usain Bolt has done at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin, Germany!
Excuse me if I use simple words like "wow", "amazing", "incredible", and "fantastic"! It's been that kind of run for the man from Jamaica in the German capital.
The pictures, whether moving or still, tell the story of the might of Bolt. Did you see how the far ahead of the chasing pack he was at the end of the 200 meters final? You could have driven a truck through the chasm! Another race, another gold medal, another world record. Is this getting old for you? It's not me for!
Watching Bolt and you can't help but have a smile on your face. Whether it's his unorthodox pre-race primping to the camera, or his sheer athletic ability once the starter's gun sounds, or the post-race prancing around the track interacting with fans lucky enough to get front-row seats to history. Bolt is a very likeable champion.
The crowd is something that excites Bolt as well. He's said that all he wants to do is have fun. Here's betting he's having a blast right about now.
I just conducted a phone interview with United States sprinter Shawn Crawford. He's the guy who finished fourth behind Bolt in Thursday's 200 meters final at the worlds. I asked him what he meant when he said that he felt like he was in a video game out there on the track. Crawford compared the race to playing a simulated athletics game on your home big screen television. You know, when the times are simply "stupid"! I think we all know what Crawford means.
I also wanted to know whether, as a competitor, Crawford thought what Bolt is doing is good for athletics. He immediately said "yes". The American sprinter said that his Jamaican counterpart is bringing added attention to his sport.
Just think, if a talent like Bolt wasn't in Berlin do you really think that we'd be talking as much about the World Athletics Championships like we have been?
That's no slight to the hundreds of athletes who train day after day in their homelands to achieve personal or team glory. But, what Bolt has done has caught the attention and the imagination of millions around the world. Athletics, for so long, was in need of a star as bright as the 23-year-old to put the sport back onto the front burner.
Usain Bolt is someone who constantly wears a smile on his face. He's brought smiles to those of us who can only marvel at his extraordinary talents on the track.
August 18, 2009
Posted: 1706 GMT
“I’m really happy that Usain broke the record.” Huh? Those, surprisingly, were the words of United States sprinter Tyson Gay after he, and the rest of us, watched the Jamaican smash another 100-meters world record at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin.
O.K. let’s add some context to Gay’s comment. The American had a front row seat to history in the German capital as he finished runner-up to Bolt in the “world’s” marquee race. While battling through the pain of a groin injury, Gay still blazed a personal best and U.S. record time of 9.71 seconds. This, of course, paled in comparison to Bolt’s lightning-fast winning time of 9.58 seconds. Gay, the second fastest human on the planet, told reporters: “I knew it was humanly possible for someone to run that fast. Unfortunately, it wasn’t me.”
What Bolt is doing is something we might not see achieved on the track for a long, long time to come, if ever. The Jamaican is pushing the limits of the human body and he appears to be doing it with the greatest of ease.
After twice interviewing the 22-year-old during last year’s Olympic Games in Beijing, there are a couple of traits that I believe contribute to his continued success. First, Bolt is lanky - 6 feet, 5 inches tall to be exact (1.9558 meters). Long legs create quite an advantage when a sprinter strides down the track.
Bolt is also one of the most laid back individuals that you’ll ever meet. Youthful exuberance when competing in the high-pressure world of athletics goes a long way in remaining cool while the heat is on. Bolt has this happy-go-lucky personality synonymous with someone raised in the Caribbean. In fact, he does care very much about what he’s doing and wants to be known someday as a living legend. Many think that he’s already achieved that goal but Bolt disagrees. Speaking in Berlin after once again doing the amazing in the 100, the sprinter said that he doesn’t think he can reach legendary status in just two seasons of glory. He said that it comes with being consistent year in and year out and with hard work.
So, how low can he go? Perhaps the best is yet to come. Bolt is on record as saying that he thinks he can take the 100-meters world record down to 9.4 seconds. Put me in the category of believers!
It may sound hard to believe but Bolt says that he doesn’t run for world records, he just keeps on working. Well, what he’s doing IS working and we are all benefiting from it as fans of athletics.
Sure, he’s not the most humble of characters, what with his trademark “lightning bolt” stance and his playful antics toward the track side television cameras. But, Bolt is hard not to like. What he’s done over the past couple of years is bring much needed personality to a sport that has lacked it of late. Couple his playful nature with his uncanny ability to wipe out world records in 30-something steps and the sky is the limit for Usain Bolt who, like lightning, will strike again very soon.
August 14, 2009
Posted: 1532 GMT
One year ago, I was witness to a number of incredible sporting achievements in the Chinese capital.
The opening week of the 2008 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing, belonged to Michael Phelps. The United States swimmer capturing our imaginations with his incredible, gold medal-winning performances in the pool.
If Phelps whet our collective appetites, then Usain Bolt delivered the dessert!
The Jamaican sprinter closed out the Beijing Games with a bang…three races, three world records, three Olympic gold medals.
A year later, at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin, Bolt is ready to defend his title as “World’s Fastest Man”. It is not likely that he will leave Germany disappointed.
Proclaiming that he is in the best shape of his life, defending world champion Tyson Gay is prepared to give Bolt the challenge that he never had in Beijing.
The anticipated Bolt-Gay Olympic showdown did not materialized after the American pulled a hamstring muscle in the U.S. Olympic trails. Berlin provides Gay a platform to show that he can give Bolt a “run for his money”.
The last time these two men met was in May 2008. It proved to be Bolt’s coming out party. While previously running in relative anonymity, Bolt burst onto the scene that night in New York with the first of his two world records in the 100-meters. Gay has been playing second fiddle ever since.
It would probably be for the good of athletics if Bolt had some real competition. Then again, don’t we wish that for other sports? Who has stepped up to tame Tiger Woods in golf? Why hasn’t anyone halted, or even slowed, the Roger Federer Express in men’s tennis?
Tyson Gay doesn’t sound intimated by Usain Bolt and he’s quick to give the Jamaican his “props”. But, until he proves otherwise, Gay will always have to hear that that he is a good but not a great sprinter.
Last month, before a meet in London, Bolt told a reporter that on his best day he doesn’t think that Gay can beat him. The Jamaican has had a number of “great” days over the past year. There’s no reason to believe that he won’t enjoy a satisfying stay in the German capital.