How Usain Bolt became a 100m sprinter, convincing his coach

1 Comment

Usain Bolt might never have broken the 100m world record if he didn’t break the Jamaican 200m record first.

As Bolt prepares for the last 100m of his career at the world championships (NBC and NBC Sports Gold, Saturday, 3 p.m. ET), a look back at his first 100m race as a pro a little more than 10 years ago:

Recall that Bolt grew up a 200m/400m runner and made his first Olympics in 2004 solely in the 200m at age 17 (eliminated in the heats in Athens while slowed by a left hamstring injury). By 2007, Bolt was on the verge of successfully lobbying his veteran coach, Glen Mills, to let him race a 100m.

Even years ago, Bolt was a lazy trainer, so complementing his specialty 200m with the 100m rather than the 400m made sense to him.

Mills, who started coaching Bolt after the 2004 Olympics, preferred the 400m for the lanky teen with a long stride. But they made a deal going into the 2007 season that if Bolt broke the national 200m record, he could enter a 100m.

At the 2007 Jamaican Championships, Bolt lowered Don Quarrie‘s 36-year-old national 200m record by .11 of a second.

“After the race [Bolt] didn’t even say thank you,” Mills said, according to the Jamaica Gleaner. “He just said, ‘When is the 100m?'”

WORLDS: TV Schedule | 5 Men’s Races to Watch | 5 Women’s Races

Three weeks later, Bolt was on the Greek island of Crete for the first 100m race of his career.

“[Mills and I] made a bet that if I did well … he would let me double in the 100m and 200m the following season,” Bolt wrote in one of his books, referencing the 2008 Olympic season. “If I didn’t do well I would do 400m and 200m. Training for the 400 meters struck me as hell on earth, so I wasn’t going to blow this opportunity.”

He won in 10.03 seconds. It was so lightly regarded that Bolt was the last line in a 180-word brief from The Associated Press. Still, Bolt won the bet.

“The only person in Jamaica running faster than that was [world-record holder] Asafa [Powell], so I told coach he had to give me the chance,” Bolt wrote.

The rest is history.

Bolt ran 9.76 in his third career 100m race on May 3, 2008, and then broke the world record four weeks later on that stormy evening in New York City.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Five men’s races to watch at world champs

Regan Smith swims another historic backstroke time at Pro Series meet

Leave a comment

Regan Smith, who last summer broke both backstroke world records, put up the fastest 100m back in history outside of a major international meet or trials competition on Saturday.

Smith, a 17-year-old Minnesota high school senior, clocked 58.26 seconds to win at a Pro Series meet in Knoxville, Tenn. It tied for the 12th-fastest time in history. None of the other fastest dozen came in January, six months out from when swimmers peak for the world’s biggest events like the Olympics.

Making it more impressive: Smith did it 27 minutes after finishing second in the 200m butterfly, which she’s also expected to contest at June’s Olympic trials in Omaha.

“It actually wasn’t as bad, as I was nervous it was going to be,” Smith, whose world record is 57.57, said of the double on NBCSN. Smith entered two events per day at the three-day Knoxville meet, in part to prepare for the trials, where she is slated to race six straight days in a bid to make the Olympic team in enough events to swim eight straight days in Tokyo.

On Saturday, Smith held off fellow 17-year-old Phoebe Bacon by six tenths. Bacon beat Smith at the U.S. Open in December, posting the second-fastest time among Americans in the event for 2019.

The teen emergence puts pressure on Kathleen Baker, the Rio Olympic silver medalist who had the world record before Smith took it at worlds.

Full Knoxville results are here. USASwimming.org live streams the last night of finals Sunday at 6:30 ET.

In other events Saturday, world silver medalist Hali Flickinger overcame Smith in the 200m fly, winning in 2:08.34. Smith, third-fastest among Americans last season, was .39 behind. The second-fastest American last year, Katie Drabot, was not in the field. The top two at trials make the Olympic team.

Erika Brown beat world champion Simone Manuel in a freestyle sprint for a second straight meet, taking the 50m free in 24.57 seconds.

Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, edged Manuel by .06 and took .01 off her personal best. Brown ranked third among Americans last year behind Manuel (24.05) and Abbey Weitzeil (24.47).

Brown also defeated Manuel in the 100m free at the U.S. Open in December, moving to fourth-fastest in the U.S. last year in that event. The top six in the 100m free at trials are in line to make the Olympic team, given relay spots.

MORE: Australian swim star issues plea after hometown hit by fires

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Mikaela Shiffrin nearly makes it three-way tie for World Cup win

Leave a comment

Mikaela Shiffrin came .01 shy of making it a three-way tie for a World Cup giant slalom win on Saturday, confirming GS has been the most up-for-grabs discipline for either gender in recent years.

Shiffrin, beaten in her last two slaloms, had the fastest second run to place third behind co-winners Italian Federica Brignone and Slovakian Petra Vlhova in Sestriere, Italy. The reigning Olympic and World Cup champion in the GS rallied from fourth place and .42 behind after the first run.

Shiffrin still leads the World Cup overall standings by 233 points over Vlhova. The American last won Dec. 29. Though she made the podium in three of her four races since, Shiffrin expressed a lack of confidence heading into this weekend’s races at the 2006 Olympic venue.

“The most exciting thing for me is that people have stopped asking me, like, are you unbeatable?” said Shiffrin, who won a record 17 World Cup races last season and has four victories nearly halfway through this season, tied with Vlhova for most on tour. “I feel really good in GS. It’s just been a long time since [the last GS on Dec. 28].”

Vlhova earned her third victory this month after beating Shiffrin those last two slaloms. Brignone leads the GS season standings by 61 points over Shiffrin, seeking to become the sixth different woman to win that discipline title in the last six years. There are four more GS races left this season.

It’s the second straight season with a World Cup GS tie. Last Feb. 1, Shiffrin and Vlhova tied in Maribor, Slovenia.

It’s the first time the top three finishers were separated by such a small margin since the last three-way tie for a win in 2006, when Lindsey VonnMichaela Dorfmeister and Nadia Styger had the same super-G time, and fourth-place Kelly VanderBeek was .01 behind.

“Last season, I had the lucky side of the hundredths many times, so sometimes I’m not going to be on the lucky side, too,” said Shiffrin, who had three victories by .16 or tighter last season.

World Cup racing continues with a parallel giant slalom on Sunday at 5:45 a.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBC Sports Gold.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Shiffrin among 10 dominant Winter Olympians of 2010s decade