After Saturday night, Sunday threatened a sense of anticlimax, even with the promise of the 100m final later in the evening. That sense of anticlimax lasted for as long as the 2 hours plus that it took Andy Murray to get rid of a massive monkey off his back, by comprehensively thrashing world number 1 Roger Federer in the Olympic final. In three sets and on Roger’s favourite Centre Court. Ok, so it wasn’t a Grand Slam, but I’ve had people try and tell me Federer wasn’t bothered. Of course not. Of course he didn’t want to win the only singles honour to elude him, that’s why he was on court for four hours on Friday afternoon against Juan Martin Del Potro, because he didn’t want to win. Does anyone honestly think that a man who has fought so hard to become world number 1 again would just throw a final away? I’m not going to dwell on that because it does great disservice to a sportsman who, as much as I may dislike him, is surely one of the greatest ever. For me, the differences here to a month ago were:
- Murray took his chances and Federer didn’t- best epitomised by the third game of the second set.
- The crowd was much more emphatic in its support of Andy Murray than they were a month back.
- The nine game run from 2-2 in the first to 5-0 in the second.
- Murray wanted it more- not to say that Federer didn’t want it, just not as much.
- Murray also managed to keep his level up and, despite some wayward serving, he didn’t drop his serve throughout.
- Perhaps most importantly, the roof stayed off. No coincidence that Wimbledon final saw Federer race away once the roof was on, his indoor record is peerless.
What was really great about Sunday afternoon was how old Andy Murray made Federer look- a point made by Tim Henman afterwards. It may not have been a slam, but with Nadal’s body failing him, Federer made mortal on his favourite service and Djokovic not the force of a year ago, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to suggest that this first major tournament victory for Murray could be a major breakthrough as he looks for that first slam.
So, to the evening’s athletics. British interest in the 100m was extinguished at the semi final stage, Dwain Chambers exiting in the semi final that saw Usain Bolt lay down something of a marker after a slightly indifferent heat. Lined up against the World Champion, Yohan Blake and Tyson Gay, Adam Gemili, the bright new hope of British sprinting ran 10.04 and just missed out on a fastest loser’s spot in the final. If only he had started his race in the same way he finished it. There was hope of a medal in the women’s 400m though, with Christine Ohuruogu defending her Olympic title, in her local stadium. Up against Sanya Richards-Ross, she appeared out of contention for a medal as they came into the home straight. And then she surged through the field. With just metres to go it looked as if, if Richards-Ross tied up, she might nick it as she did 4 years ago. This time, the American held on for a deserved victory. Ohuruogu looked, and sounded, devastated. She shouldn’t be. Yes, she might have retained her title had she launched for the line a few metres earlier, but a silver medal in defence of a title is no disgrace. I think/ hope? she realised that by the time the acclaim of her home crowd had died down.
In no time at all, the men were lining up for the start of the fastest race on earth. This time, it actually was that. This time, the “blue riband event”, as you may have heard the BBC call it, saw the 4 fastest men in the world ever line up; the defending champion Bolt, World champion Blake, Asafa Powell and the likeable Tyson Gay. Bolt and Blake had been filmed warming up, they seemed extremely relaxed. If Bolt was nervous, it wasn’t showing as he played to the camera in his blocks. The gun went. No false starts and they were off. Bolt was apparently so relaxed he was a bit slow out of his blocks, but not as slow as Blake. Before you’d really had time to register Bolt’s slowish start (and as Michael Johnson observed, he wasn’t slow, he’s just running against supremely fast athletes), he was accelerating through the field. With 40m left, he was ahead, his legs working like the Roadrunner’s, and Powell had pulled up. He may even have stopped to offer his rivals a “Meep meep” before zooming off down the track. Perhaps I imagined that bit. There was only going to be one winner from here on in and Bolt crossed the line, working all the way (more or less), in a new Olympic record of 9.63 seconds.
Initially, the clock said 9.64, which was the time Colin Jackson had predicted Bolt would get home in, but it was rounded down pretty quickly. Yohan Blake was second, as he equalled his PB of 9.75, with drug cheat Justin Gatlin edging out fellow American, Tyson Gay for the bronze medal. To back up the claim that this was the fastest race in history, the seven men that completed it all came in under 10 seconds. Imagine, running 100m in under ten seconds and coming in… last? Madness.
Bolt had let people talk, as people do. He then went and did what he does, which is to blow everyone else away with his supreme athletic talent. Stunning.