Beijing's Bolt of Lightning lit up the sporting landscape
by Weeshie Fogarty
As always a multitude of memories from another memorable sporting year. For me one name stands heads and shoulders above all others on the world stage. Usain Bolt.
I sat transfixed in front of our television set as we watched the fastest human on the planet utterly destroy all opposition in the 100 and 200 meters finals at the unforgettable Beijing Summer Olympics. But it was not the actual breasting of the tape to win the two gold medals that stood out, no; it was the ease of the winning margins that remains etched in the memory.
In that 100 metres final Bolt broke his own world record winning in 9.96 seconds. Not only was the record set without a favorable wind but he also visibly slowed down to begin his victory celebrations and to cap it all one of his shoe laces had become untied.
Watching this "Bolt of Lightning" streaking down the track was an awesome sight and while it was clearly visible that he took the foot of the pedal as he came to the line his coach later said that he could have finished in 9.55 second.
The whole world now awaited his attempt to complete the double and win the 200m event. This had been previously achieved by my own favorite athlete of all Carol Lewis at the 1984 Los Angles Olympics. This was a not to be missed Olympic final and Bolt lived up to and indeed exceed all our great expectations. There was no show boating in this win.
Bolt streaked down the track: an awesome sight. Dipping his chest as he broke the tape the electronic score board flashed his time to viewers around the world. Michael Jordon's world record was smashed, 19.30 and Bolt became the first sprinter to break both records at the same Olympics. He would be just 22 years of age the following day. Two days later to cap a memorable games Bolt helped the Jamaican team to set a new world record as they took gold in the 4x100 meters relay.
However, it was not just his record breaking runs that for me made him my top sports person of the year. Being from the Caribbean Island of Jamaica which gave us that wonderful rhythmic Calypso music surely explains the cocky, showman, happy personality that Usain displayed as he danced and cavorted around the track following his wins. A real showman he was well entitled to display what many regarded and condemned as arrogance.
Now whatever way you look at it this remarkable young man was certainly enjoying his moments of history and I like millions of others were with him all the way. You don't have to be a golfing expert nor have you even to be a Sunday morning 18-holes man to appreciate the wonders of our own Padraig Harrington. What a year he has had. And, of course, we take that extra special interest in him as his dad the late Paddy Harrington was a sterling defender with Cork footballers. Indeed I have vivid memories of him in action as I often watched in Fitzgerald Stadium or the old Cork Athletic grounds as he threw down the gauntlet to Kerry in the 1950s.
To win the British Open Championship once in a lifetime is a wonderful accomplishment but to go out and retain it is sensational. Padraig did just that. The first European golfer since James Braid in 1906 to retain the famous Claret Jug. And let's not forget that eight days previously it was doubtful if he would even play at Royal Birkdale as he had suffered a severe wrist injury in practice.
Then to prove to the golfing world that he is really a super star the Irishman went out just three weeks later after winning the Open and won the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills for his third major. His three under par 277 was two shots ahead of Sergio Garcia and Ben Curtis. Harrington thus became the first European to win the PGA Championship in its 93 –year's history.
Just recently his five-wood approach shot to the par five at the 17th in the British Open was voted the PGA European Tours "shot of the year". He must now rank as one of Ireland's greatest ever sports persons following his magnificent 2008.
I am a huge admirer of Wicklow boxer Katie Taylor. The 22 year old recently won her second consecutive world lightweight title in China destroying all opposition and now hopes to compete in the London 2012 Olympics. What other sports person in Ireland could it be said of that "she is a certainly for a gold medal". Let's hope women's boxing is allowed in 2012.
Kerry had three oarsmen rowing in the Beijing Olympics. Paul Griffin, Sean Casey and Cathal Moynihan wrote themselves into history. The Kerry under-21 footballers superb All-Ireland title win and the sensational last minute penalty win by Mid Kerry in the county final also spring to mind. The legendary Jack O'Shea covered his eyes in the stand unable to watch as his son Aidan blasted home the spot kick.
And finally, and it's seldom if ever we give ourselves a pat on the back. Just last month my own Radio Kerry Terrace Talk sports programme fought off all local and national opposition to win the prestigious PPI Best Sports Programme of the Year award. It was a fitting way to celebrate ten years on air and the award is dedicated to all Kerry sportsmen and women everywhere.
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