Everything with Usain Bolt creates great theater, even on the rare occasion when he's defeated. On Thursday, Bolt was nipped at the tape at the Diamond League's Golden Gala Invitational in Rome by U.S. sprinter Justin Gatlin.
Gatlin's career seems to have caught a nice tailwind as he's reinventing himself after a doping suspension. Bolt on the other hand is a perpetual reinvention, a new way to celebrate life and expand the appreciation for an event that is part science, but especially in Bolt's case, many parts art. Just look at the pre-meet advertisements for the event, displaying Bolt decked out in a gladiator's attire, and you know he much he enjoys the theater of his event, a ten-second showdown in which he extends into days and weeks of drama, bravado and posing.
Bolt has been relatively low-key in this non-Olympic year. He pulled out of a race in Jamaica because of a sore hamstring and ran a pedestrian 10.09 when he did return for a race in the Cayman Islands. In advance of the race, Bolt was asked if anything could possibly cause him great worry. In typical Bolt humor, the devotee of Manchester United soccer replied that the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson was a source. "I must say it was a pretty stressful day for me," he said.
Gatlin, on the other hand, has been successful this season, winning Diamond League races in Doha and Eugene with times of 9.97 and 9.88. That speed led to some trash talking from Gatlin.
I like getting into it," Gatlin said. "Sorry Usain."
Bolt jumped out of the starting blocks quickly, but didn't have the afterburners we're accustomed to seeing; in return, Gatlin looked much fresher. "My legs didn't feel like my legs coming into the straight," Bolt said. "It's about the dog fight. ... It's not about running 9.6 or 9.7 at this point in time; it's about putting on a great show for the fans, and I think the fans tonight saw that."
After the race Bolt held up four fingers, then started shaking his head from side to side and told people, "four more years." He also reminded people that he wouldn't focus only on racing. He has appeared on Saturday Night Live in a parody of Congressman Paul Ryan, the one with the exaggerated marathon time; he threw down a slam dunk at an exhibition as part of the NBA's all-star weekend and says there are more Bolt-like exploits in the works.
Though Bolt's feats on the track can drop jaws as well as records, he still doesn't need to finish first to steal the spotlight.
Maracana Stadium will remain standing
Rio's Olympic stadium is apparently safe and sound. The re-opening of Maracana Stadium, the iconic slated to be a focal point of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, opened again on Wednesday despite concerns of its stability.
local justice recently ruled that a soccer friendly between Brazil and England could not take place because the repaired stadium was structurally unsafe. The city government appealed the decision, and the game took place with the teams playing to a 2-2 draw. The stadium, which is due to host the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2016 Games, has been retrofitted several times since the original groundbreaking in 1948. Matches were held at the stadium for years despite the fact that construction at the far end of the stadium wasn't finished for another 17 years. In 1954, Uruguay defeated Brazil at a world cup game before 199,854 spectators, with most of them standing.
China also dominates at women's water polo
Add women's water polo to another sport or event in the lengthening list of Chinese conquests. On Wednesday, the Chinese women's water polo team toppled the Russians, 8-7 in the final match to win the world water polo league title. China had never won a medal before in the yearly league, which began in 2004. The Chinese did take silver at the world championships in 2011. The U.S. team defeated Hungary, 10-9, to win bronze, after four straight years of capturing gold.
The collapse of Australian swimming
The full frontal collapse of once proud Australian swimming continued this week, when Barclay Nettlefold, the federation's president, resigned, unable to quell the controversy after he made an inappropriate comment about a female sports scientists who was working with the federation. A day after word got out, the team lost a major sponsor with an energy company that pulled out of a five-year, multi-million dollar agreement just a year into the contract. The federation has been hit with several setbacks, losing roughly six percent of its funding in the immediate aftermath of a poor showing at the London Olympics, where the team won just gold medal. Several members of the men's relay team had to apologize earlier this year for "childish behavior" while they were under the influence of a sedative during a team training camp in Manchester.
Pat McQuaid wants to keep his job
In the wake of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal, life has become a growing headache for those associated with cycling, especially Pat McQuaid, the Irishman who runs UCI, the sport's international governing body. After Brian Cookson, head of British cycling and a former McQuaid supporter, announced his candidacy for president in UCI's upcoming elections, McQuaid fired off a letter to presidents of several national governing bodies of cycling in which he said, "A small group of activists has banded together to try, by whatever means, to hijack and derail my candidature in the coming election. Their agenda is narrow and negative, and they have nothing positive or constructive to offer in discussions about cycling's future."