Caribbean: Lightning Bolt Strikes Beijing

“Lightning Bolt” – Screenshot by hybridvigour. Visit his photostream.
Global Voices OlympicsThis post is going to be as long as Jamaican Usain Bolt‘s sprint to 100m-dash Olympic glory was short and ever-so sweet – because Caribbean bloggers still have not come down from the high that Bolt's amazing win has created. 9.69 was the magic number that brought the Jamaican sprinter the Olympic gold. 9.69 seconds. And he did it, to quote The New York Times, “by a mile.”

As if Bolt's masterful domination of the “fastest men in the world” field weren't enough, Trinidadian Richard Thompson, who made an impressive showing earlier this year at the NCAA Championships, winning gold in both the 100m and 60m (indoor) events, pulled off an upset and came in second.

Twitter and Facebook were immediately abuzz, with bloggers calling it “the race of the Olympics” and admitting they were “much prouder than usual to be West Indian”.

The significance of the Caribbean finishing in first and second place in one of the most prestigious events of the Olympic games soon began to sink in. This is the first time since the 1976 Games in Montreal (when Trinidadian Hasley Crawford took top honours) that a West Indian has brought home the gold in the 100m dash. Just as significant an achievement was the fact that six out of the eight finalists were from regional territories. In the words of Jamaican blogger Active Voice:

Right now it looks like the Caribbean has a monopoly on track and field!

…while West Indies Cricket Blog adds:

Wow! Just wow!

Jamaicans were understandably exuberant! Blog To The World says:

It was pandemonium and wild celebrations as Jamaica’s Usain Bolt won the Olympic 100m sprint in a World record time of 9.69 seconds (breaking his own record of 9.72. What was so surprising about this performance is that he started celebrating with about 20 meters to go.

Before heading out the door to join “motorcade in progress in Falmouth”, he also notes that the victory was a special one for him, since he knows Bolt personally:

He is from Sherwood Content in my parish of Trelawny. When he was at high school (William Knibb Memorial High) almost every evening he used to hang out in my video store before going home so I have always watched his progress over the years.

Prior to the win, some bloggers were mischievously making fun of the fact that the “super-drug” behind the stellar performances from the Jamaicans was what West Indians refer to as “blue food” – hearty staples such as yams and other ground provisions.

Montego Bay Day By Day agreed that “yellow yam, dasheen & coco does the body good indeed”, but was less-than-impressed by the fact that NBC did not bring a live feed of the race:

If Tyson Gay had qualified would they have thought it worthy of carrying, even though Gay's butt would have been quite properly whooped by Usain Bolt? Sour grapes indeed…Pity Asafa Powell didn't get the bronze…but cho so it go sometimes. Go through West Indies!! We proud of unu!!

And sure enough, the proud posts kept on coming. Jamaican Stunner asks:

How could I not join in the throng of proud bloggers in saluting such a remarkable, record breaking performance, finely executed by Usain Bolt? The world breaking record was amazing but what was even more fascinating was the fact that Bolt slowed down and started to celebrate his victory from approximately the 80m mark! What the hell! can you imagine what the record would have been if he didn't ease up?

The rest of the region soon chimed in. Barbadian diaspora blogger Jdid says:

How aptly named is this guy? Bolt wow! 9.69 and he was celebrating at the 80m mark. Congrats! Big up Jamaica! Last night on CBC (Canada) they had this discussion about why Jamaica has produced such amazing sprinters over the years…

Moving back to Jamaica seems to have the answer:

If it's one thing that we Jamaicans can be counted on, it's to enjoy the fact that we have the world's greatest sprint factory. What many don't know is that a major factor in our success is the intense rivalry that exists among our high schools, that starts at age 11 and continues for a lifetime.

Whatever the secret, there was no doubt as to Bolt's ability. Living in Barbados referred to the World #1 as “a weapon of mass destruction”, while Cayman Islands blogger Mad Bull called him “greased lightning”, adding:

The only thing is, can you imagine what time he might have got if he ran his utmost best for the whole race?! Wow! He shut down and started celebrating the win from about the 75 metre mark! I am sorry he didn’t go pedal-to-da-metal all the way through, just so we could see what the man is actually capable of!

Trinidad and Tobago-based Media Watch called the race “Stunning! Fantastic! Electric!” before going on to critique the poor local MSM coverage of the event – perhaps he should have gone online, where Andre Bagoo was live-blogging the race.

Kudos kept pouring in – from Grenada, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.

As news broke that Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding “has promised a massive welcome home celebration for Jamaica's first gold medalist in the Beijing Olympics, Usain Bolt, and the rest of the Olympic Team“, Living Guyana suggested a few ways in which proper homage could be paid to the outstanding Olympian:

If…Bruce Golding…has any sense he would declare Monday a national holiday in Jamaica, he would rename Knutsford Boulevard, Usain Bolt Speedway and he would declare August 16th Usain Bolt Day. He should be rewarded with land, 9.69 square miles of it in Jamaica. And a house as well.

But not everyone was awe-struck by “The Lightning Bolt”. While Living Guyana answered BBC Sport‘s Matt Slater's “Did I just watch a man run sideways through the line, slapping his chest, and still travel 100m in 9.69 seconds?” Twitter question with a matter-of-fact “Ah, yes Matt, you did. Your eyes weren't fooling you”, Jamaican Long Bench thought the theatrics were a bit too much:

I hope someone reminds him that he is still a human being. Obnoxious men are are tolerated for only so long, even if they are Jamaican, and no matter how fast they can run.

Amidst his joy for his Caribbean compatriots, Living Guyana felt a twinge of disappointment for the Guyanese Olympic contingent:

The two Caribbean countries which have invested heavily in athletics are seeing the results and enjoying the limelight on the world stage. These two countries have proper, world class athletics stadia, excellent athletics programmes, fantastic coaches…and in other news Guyanese athletes continue to bomb out of the Olympics without any notice whatsoever.

Still, nothing could stem the overwhelming tide of happiness that washed over the West Indies when two islands at opposite ends of the archipelago brought home the gold and the silver in one of the most high-profile events of the 2008 Olympic Games. The good news spread from China to the Caribbean, from island shores to diaspora scattered far and wide. A Mi Ver, who lives in Florida, captured the region's sense of pride and accomplishment as she recounts a conversation with her father, who called from Trinidad to bring her up to speed:

“I decided to break the rules today 'cause we celebratin’,” says the old man, “and call you while I'm drivin’ on the highway. Usain Bolt from Jamaica jus’ won gold in the men 100 meters, Richard Thompson from Trinidad took silver and the U.S. came third.”
He sounds so jolly when he rings off.
*Five minutes later*
“Aye,” he says. “Did I tell you that two men from the Caribbean are the fastest men in the world?”
“Yeah, I think yuh did.”
“Well ah gone.”
“OK. Bye, Dad. Love you. Drive safe.”
“Love you too. babes. We win, eh!”


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