Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the fastest man on the planet, the face of the 2020 Games, your new Olympic champion, wait, wait, I’ve got it here somewhere, on one of these pieces of paper, yes: Marcell Jacobs. If you don’t know – and plenty didn’t – you do now. Jacobs, a 26-year-old former long jumper, born in Texas, raised in Italy, won a wildly unpredictable and wide-open men’s 100m in 9.80sec. Which is pretty damn quick. And would have won almost every other Olympic final, including, yes, the last one at Rio in 2016, when Usain Bolt finished in 9.81sec.
And there he is, unavoidably. I say almost every Olympic final because there are two exceptions, Bolt’s twice-in-a-lifetime runs in Beijing in 2008 and London 2012. If you were watching on Sunday, you’ll have seen that World Athletics have started blacking out the stadium at the beginning of the sprint finals. It’s one of the new tricks they’re using to make the sport more appealing now that they’re having to do without their biggest star. Maybe they’re hoping that in the pitch blackness, no one will notice the shadow Bolt still casts over the sport.
But I could see him in my mind’s eye, maybe you could too. If it helps any, so could Jacobs. “I can recall every one of his races because I watched them all,” he said, “It’s unbelievable that I am here today, where he was before.” To his credit, Jacobs resisted making any comparisons. “He was the face of the entire sport, which he has changed forever. I’ve just won an Olympic medal, it’s not time to compare myself to him,” he said.
In his pomp, Bolt would have obliterated this field. The men competing here will likely have to live with his 100m times for a long while yet, just like the women have lived with Florence Griffith Joyner’s.
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