LONDON — Want insane?
Tyson Gay is one the fastest men in the world and on Sunday night, the United States athlete flew down the track at Olympic Stadium and finished the 100 meters in 9.8 seconds.
It is a mark that would have won gold in every Olympics before Beijing four years ago, including after they stripped a steroids-loaded Ben Johnson of his medal in 1988.
Here, it wasn’t even good enough for bronze.
Jesse Owens has to move aside today. So does Carl Lewis. So does anyone that history has suggested is the greatest sprinter of all time.
It’s not a question now.
The title is owned by a 6-foot-5 showman from Jamaica, who performs under the brightest of Olympic lights as few have and is the first since Lewis to repeat as 100 meters champion.
This wasn’t the Usain Bolt of Beijing, but it was a exclamation point of incredible size. He won in an Olympic record 9.63 seconds on a night all eight competitors would have run sub-10 seconds had one not pulled a groin.
It was, as Justin Gatlin of the U.S. predicted, crazy, stupid fast.
“For me, this was the best 100 ever,” said Ato Boldon, a four-time medal winner from Trinidad and Tobago and now NBC commentator. “It’s one thing to have a guy run 9.6 and second place is 9.89. But to have Tyson Gay at 9.8 get nothing … We used to make jokes about that.”
Yohan Blake of Jamaica, Bolt’s training partner and main rival the last year, earned silver at 9.75 and Gatlin bronze at 9.79, making his return to the event he won in Athens in 2004 before serving a four-year doping suspension.
“I went out to challenge the mountain,” Gatlin said. “I went out to challenge the legend. It means a lot to be part of history, but he was the better man. He is the Michael Phelps of our sport.”
Asafa Powell pulled up with a groin injury and finished in 11.99, but the Jamaican has broken the 10-second barrier 79 times, most in history. If he doesn’t get hurt, all eight guys are under 10.
That would have made it really stupid and really crazy fast.
The moment arrived and Bolt was everything. He was supposedly nursing back and hamstring injuries, but someone hurt and not in top shape doesn’t run like this. No other human runs like this, period.
He won again over the final 50 meters, where his height advantage allowed him to take fewer strides than others as the finish line came into sight. He never has been the best starter. He doesn’t have to be. There is still the 200 meters remaining here, still a chance he will repeat in that, still a chance the legend grows even larger before these Games conclude.
The doping questions linger about all those in the 100 final and they should, because there is going to come a day when someone runs close to the world record now (9.58) and doesn’t medal.
That’s how fast these guys are getting, with help from drugs or not.
Bolt won the 100 in Beijing in 9.69 while crossing the finish line sideways in no wind with a shoelace untied and pounding his chest. Had this been that night and he had the slight wind advantage of here and run hard through the finish line, his time Sunday could have flirted with the 9.4s.
It’s implausible to imagine, and yet the time is coming.
“When it comes to championships, this is what I do,” Bolt said. “Hands down, it was harder to repeat than win (in Beijing). But the last 10 meters were again mine. By then, I knew I would win.”
The times on Sunday might suggest others are closing the gap on Bolt and the idea that he will return in four years in Rio de Janeiro to try and become the first to win three straight golds in the 100 is debatable at best.
He would be 29, but Gatlin won bronze here at age 30.
“I don’t know about you guys, but I’m not going to bet against him,” Boldon said. “It’s a very long time, but I still feel like Usain Bolt will be on that throne for some time. Only he can find a way to screw this up.
“But he distanced himself tonight from Carl Lewis and everyone else. He sits alone. If he gets another one in Rio, forget about it. It’s not even close.”
I’m not sure how close it is now.
But one thing is certain: He is stupid, crazy, ridiculously fast.
ED GRANEY is a sports columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He also is writing an Olympics blog at www.lvrj.com/blogs/graney Follow him on Twitter @edgraney He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.