Bolt: Happiness Trumps Time
When I got on a media shuttle in the early morning hours on Sunday, I ran into a Scandinavian journalist who's staying in our hotel. He asked if I saw Usain Bolt smash the world record in tonight's 100-meter dash. I had, of course; the Olympic channel in our office showed the race about 30 times, and everyone in the building was watching. (But you weren't! Thanks, NBC.)
"What did you think of it then?" the Scandinavian asked me. I realized he was asking not about the race itself but about Bolt's celebration--which started with something like 20 meters to go and continued long after the race ended.
"Like a jockey astride a wonder-horse, he nearly even snuck a quick look over his shoulder in the last five metres," wrote one of the ever-descriptive British papers. "Bolt, having produced the most electric 100 metres performance for 20 years, contented himself with smiting his left breast and then discoing around the stadium."
The idea, I suppose, is that you never know for sure how many chances you'll get to do something better than any human has ever done, and that Bolt could have waited those extra two seconds and made the record as unbeatable as possible when everything was working. Still, I told my Scandinavian friend what I thought: that the whole thing was awesome, a bolt of joy in an Olympics that has often seemed relatively joyless.
We've all--fans and media and athletes alike--dealt with the usual drudgery of metal detectors and security fencing and uniformed people saying that you simply must walk in the exact opposite direction you'd prefer, but this time there have been plenty of other clouds: the literal ones, the political overtones, the empty seats, the constant questions about whether the existing fans are there by choice and are cheering out of joy or from some mandate.
This celebration--the chest pounding, the arms wagging, the pre-finish-line exclamations--seemed so obviously genuine, because Bolt had every reason not to bust out early. But it's not like there's some greater societal good in shaving 0.02 more seconds off a record that will inevitably go lower. Bolt had the race won, which is the point. That made him happy, and he showed it. That's worth a lot more smiles than a few extra hundredths of a seconds.
"I came here to win a championship, not run a time,'' Bolt said. "When I saw I had the race, I was just happy.''
There was a zero percent chance he could lose, but still, it conjured very vague thoughts of snowboarder Lindsay Jacobellis's performance in Turin. Remember her? She crashed while showboating, and lost her gold.
"I was having fun," Jacobellis said at the time. "Snowboarding is fun. I was ahead. I wanted to share my enthusiasm with the crowd. I messed up. Oh well, it happens."
Sure, she had more at stake when she chose joy over speed, but the point isn't that much different. Fun. Happy. Enthusiasm. Good words, when sports are involved.
Posted by: Liu Xiaoxin, Beijing | August 16, 2008 4:22 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Anonymous | August 16, 2008 4:49 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: MHO | August 16, 2008 4:56 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Vinnette | August 16, 2008 5:07 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Dianne72 | August 16, 2008 5:22 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Samina Hayaat | August 16, 2008 6:30 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Anonymous | August 16, 2008 7:20 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: DBKAlum | August 16, 2008 7:59 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: kari | August 17, 2008 10:02 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: sitruc | August 17, 2008 12:02 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ellie | August 17, 2008 12:09 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.