Bolt strikes in Beijing 2008

Usain Bolt of Jamaica celebrates winning the Men's 100m Final and the gold medal at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
Usain Bolt of Jamaica celebrates winning the Men's 100m Final and the gold medal at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

The history of the Olympic Games is full of dramatic, emotional and beautiful moments that took place in finals. Every week, relive the most incredible finals you can remember on video. This week, the men's 100m won by the Jamaican legend. 

The deets

Men's 100m sprint event

Beijing National Stadium, 16 August 2008

The background

Usain Bolt is widely considered to be the greatest sprinter of all time. His success is unprecedented. He is the first sprinter to win double 100m and 200m titles in consecutive Olympic Games. Bolt's fame makes it hard to remember that he was just another young hopeful dreaming of Olympic success.

In 2004, he took part in his first Olympic Games in Athens. At the time, he was running the 200m and 400m but his first appearance at the Olympics was a not-too happy experience for the youngster.

Poor form and a leg injury leading into Athens saw Bolt eliminated in the semi-finals with a disappointing time.

So, what happened to Bolt over the next four years to become the fastest man in the world?

Bolt was generally considered to be the wrong height to dominate the 100m. At 1.95m, by the time young sprinter unravelled his massive frame in a sprint, coaches said the race would be over. That explosive start, so essential to 100m success, was surely beyond him, and his coaches thought that he was much more suited to longer-distance sprints.

Bolt, however, was not so sure.

He was formidable over 400m but hated the hours of endurance training and now wanted to give the 100m a go. So, he made a deal with his coaches. Bolt would enter a minor athletics meet in Crete in July 2007 to run 100m, and if he beat the time of 10.30, he could drop the 400m and focus on the 100m and 200m.

Bolt won the 100m in Crete with a time of 10.03.

If a 20-year-old Bolt could threaten 10 seconds at his first attempt, without the required years of explosive sprint training, then sky was the limit.

The key moment

It was decided that Bolt would focus on the 100m however, the Beijing 2008 Games were fast approaching. He started to put in some serious gym work and filled out his huge frame with hard graft and a special diet regime. The results were extraordinary.

In 2008 in Jamaica, Bolt went under the 10 second mark for the first time - a giant leap which put him right up with the best in the world.

Later that month in New York, Bolt raced against the world record holder, Tyson Gay. Bolt won in a new world record time of 9.72 seconds. It was only Bolt’s fifth competitive 100m race.

From nowhere, he burst onto the scene and become the most exciting sprinter in the world.

As the new 100m world record holder, he was the favourite to win the 100m at Beijing 2008.

On the day of the final there was a lot of expectation. His performance didn't disappoint; in fact, it left everyone speechless.

In an incredible race, in which the Jamaican devastated his rivals, he also broke new ground, winning in 9.69s, a new world record, well ahead of silver medallist Richard Thompson (9.89).

Not only was the record set without a favourable wind but the big Jamaican toyed with the camera at the finishing line, ran with an untied shoelace and celebrated before he had actually won.

Usain Bolt of Jamaica celebrates next to the scoreboard winning the Men's 100m Final and the gold medal at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.  Bolt of Jamaica finished with a time of 9.69, a new world record (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Usain Bolt of Jamaica celebrates next to the scoreboard winning the Men's 100m Final and the gold medal at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Bolt of Jamaica finished with a time of 9.69, a new world record (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)
2008 Getty Images

The outcome

Bolt's legendary exploits in 2008 cut across sporting boundaries.

What is often well forgotten was just how upset some people were. Bolt was criticised for his behaviour at the time but, ultimately, it is why the race has become quite memorable.

"I wasn't bragging. When I saw I wasn't covered, I was just happy," Bolt said back then.

After his amazing performance in Beijing, Bolt would go on to make history as the only sprinter to win the Olympic 100m and 200m at three consecutive Games (2008, 2012 and 2016).

Bolt never left an Olympic event with anything short of a gold medal, as Jamaica also won the 4×100 relays in which he participated. If not for a teammate’s doping uncovered in 2018, the retired sprinter would have nine Olympic gold medals instead of eight.

He also beat his own world record in 100m at the 2009 Berlin World Champions with a time of 9.58 - still the current men's world record.

But the memory of 2008 remains as clear as ever.

Usain Bolt Breaks 100m World Record in Beijing 2008
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