In the countdown to the 2012 London Olympics, we retrace some memorable achievements in the history of the Games. In part ten of our Olympic recall, a look at Usain Bolt’s and Michael Phelp’s electrifying performances at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
2008: Bolt breaks 100m, Johnson's 200m world records
It was widely believed that Michael Johnson’s 200 meter Olympic record of 19.32 seconds, set in 1996, would be unbeatable. But in 2008, along came the electrifying Usain Bolt to break it by two hundredths of a second. A day before his 22nd birthday, the lightening-quick Jamaican clocked a world-record time of 19.30 seconds – which wasn’t even his most impressive showing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Usain Bolt's impressive showing at the Beijing games saw him break Michael Johnson's 200m record of 19.32 seconds
In the 100m dash, Bolt lowered his own world record to 9.69 seconds, a mark that would have been even lower had he not intentionally slowed down to celebrate his impending victory as he neared the finish line. Spreading his arms and thumping his chest in celebration, Bolt irritated fans and competitors but also cemented his place as the world’s most exhilarating sprinter.
Bolt capped his unforgettable Games with another world record and gold medal in the 4x100 relay.
Phelps achieves his goal
Four years on from the Sydney Games, Michael Phelps attained what he set out to do – win eight Olympic gold medals. In eight days.
In Beijing, Phelps entered in five individual events and three relays. But this time he did not prophesize. His aim was to make sure he won each event he participated in. And that he did, swimming outstandingly in all distances and styles on the way to a record eight gold medals. He also broke seven world records, annihilating everyone in the pool and eclipsing Mark Spitz’s previous record of seven golds in one Olympic Games.
The 100m butterfly was the most dramatic of Phelps’ races, because before the results were flashed no one could say who had won. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the electronic timing appeared on the giant screens and it was confirmed that Phelps had touched the wall first, only one hundredth of a second ahead of Serbia’s Milorad Cavic.
Of the eight gold medals Phelps won, the final proved to be the most significant. During the men’s 4x100m medley relay, the American swan the third leg, the butterfly, in a rapid 50.15 seconds. That allowed his team-mate Jason Lezak a half-second lead in the fourth and final leg, the freestyle, and he finished in 46.76 seconds giving the US team a record-setting medley victory of 3:29:34.