While racing in Saturday's 200-meter final at the world championships, Usain Bolt appeared to briefly glance up at the stadium's video board to watch himself running. If so, who can blame him? The man has provided track's most exhilarating performances since the opening beach-running scene in "Chariots of Fire."
We missed out last weekend when the new false start rule disqualified Bolt from the 100 final and provided us only with the image of the world's fastest man whipping off his jersey and stomping off the track in frustration. But he did not jump the gun Saturday in Daegu, South Korea. Bolt was the last out of the starting blocks but quickly passed the rest of the field and continued full-out to win the race in 19.70, the fourth-fastest time ever and .21 seconds shy of his world record.
Bolt immediately celebrated the victory by slapping his chest and performing an arm-weaving, hip-rolling and finger-pumping dance to the crowd. All he was missing was Len Goodman grading him on his performance. He knelt on the track to briefly catch his breath while a ludicrous mascot also took a knee beside him and placed its hand (paw? hoof?) to its mouth as if deep in contemplation.
Would it be inappropriate if I asked him to sign an autograph now?
Bolt gave the crowd his signature lightning gesture and the crowd replied with thunder in its applause. According to The Associated Press, he later told the crowd "I am still the best" before taking off his shoes and dancing barefoot. He also pretended to run away from photographers, but that was just a joke because the camera is the one opponent he doesn't out-distance.
He did, however, stop short of a fog machine, but maybe we'll get that if he leads Jamaica past the United States in Sunday's 4x100 relay finale. That race will be somewhat reduced because Jamaican teammate Asafa Powell dropped out due to a groin injury and American Tyson Gay has been out with a hip injury since June.
But forget Powell and Gay, or even Walter Dix, the American who finished second in the 100 and 200 here. The guys I want to see Bolt compete against come London are Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco for the most outrageous, over-the-top victory celebration. Even the opening ceremonies would pale in comparison.
Bolt's theatrics are why the Jamaican sprinter is so popular and so important to a sport that desperately needs the wattage of his star power. The perfectly named Bolt is so electrifying, the stadium could lose power and he still would light up the track bright enough to be seen from Pluto. He is the ultimate competitor for our time, mixing the oldest, most elemental sport there is (who can run the fastest) with the modern competitions that so obsess us ("Dancing With the Stars" and "American Idol").
Not only is Bolt the fastest man on earth, but he puts on such a show that the London organizers may need Simon Cowell as a track referee.