Giant on the move
Was Bolt celebration over the top?
Was Usain Bolt’s theatrical exuberance before, during and after his 100 metres final appropriate for a man who gave a devastating performance that broke his own world record?
Or was it indulgent, inappropriate and over the top?
Do we want our sportspeople to be modest personalities whose performances do the talking?
Or is showboating and swagger part of the big game experience, key to both the entertainment we crave and the self-belief needed to win at the top level?
Sprinters are not known for being shy, retiring people but a touch of braggadocio is needed by people who explode in intense effort for a few seconds, adrenaline and energy coursing through them, and must then run off their brain-popping endorphins in victory laps or a disappointed jog to the dressing room.
Even so, Bolt’s dancing, gesturing, chest thumping and shoe kissing has divided opinion. Did he go too far?
Was it all a tease to excite us ahead of the 200 metres sprint, Bolt’s favourite race, which he is now hot favourite to win on Wednesday night? Or is the 21-year-old Jamaican such a brilliant athlete he is entitled to his histrionics and we owe it to him just to admire?
Some commentators felt he made a mockery of the race, literally and figuratively. Others chided him for clowning around. Egotistic, said one blogger. Disrepectful, said others. He missed an opportunity to truly devestate the world record by slowing up before the finish, said one fellow athlete.
Charges of hubris come fastest when the celebrations start before the athlete is over the finish line. Is it more acceptable in endurance sports, where a competitor is clearly ahead, has already earned the victory and can be forgiven for wanting to amplify the moment of joy?
Triathlete Emma Snowsill had time to collect an Australian flag more than a 100 metres from the finish and drape herself in that and the finish line banner to celebrate her triumph in the Beijing women’s triathlon. But she was leading by more than a minute. Bolt was leading by two tenths of a second or so.
Despite Bolt’s outstanding form I will be watching the 200 metres carefully, mindful of the famous pratfalls of sport, where a competitor has their arms raised in triumph, medal in the bag, only for a rival to sweep past them at the end.
I was reminded of snowboarder Lindsay Jacobellis who was set for gold in the Turin Olympics. She tried to show off on a jump and crashed out of first place. I hope the laidback Jamaican looks carefully over his shoulder.