Eleven years ago today, Usain Bolt blasted across the track in Beijing to win Olympic 100-meter gold in an unfathomable time of 9.69 seconds.
Ten years ago today, Bolt stepped to the line for the world championship final in Berlin.
“I would not be surprised to see that clock say 9.5,” said the prescient commentator Ato Boldon.
When that clock stopped, the digits 9.5 were indeed there. The final time: 9.58 seconds.
To put it in perspective — Tyson Gay set an American record of 9.71 seconds in the same race, and he wasn’t all that close to Bolt at the finish.
Gay shaved another 0.02 seconds off his time a few weeks later in Shanghai to match Bolt’s 2008 time of 9.69, an American record that still stands. The only other sprinter to go faster than 9.7 is Jamaica’s Yohan Blake, who also ran the iconic distance in 9.69 a few weeks after the 2012 Olympics.
Bolt himself never again broke the 9.6 mark and only broke the 9.7 mark once more when he lowered his Olympic record to 9.63 in 2012.
From 2013 to today, only three men have broken the 9.8 mark. Justin Gatlin did in six times in 2014 and 2015, posting a best of 9.74. Bolt did it twice, including a 9.77 in 2013.
American Christian Coleman ran a 9.79 last year and has the world’s fastest time (9.81) so far this year with the Diamond League finals and world championships still to come.
While a time of 9.58 seems beyond the grasp of any other mortal, it’s so deeply embedded in Bolt’s identity that he chose the jersey number 9.58 in a charity soccer match earlier this year.
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