Lightning Strikes Twice

Post reporter Barry Svrluga discusses Usain Bolt's second world-record performance -- a victory in the men's 200 meters -- from the Olympic track and field venue in Beijing.

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By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 21, 2008

BEIJING, Aug. 21 -- 200 {vbar} 19.30 SECONDS Yesterday, he becomes the first to win 100-200 double while setting world records in each.

As television commentators spewed superlatives about Usain Bolt's run in the Olympic 200 meters, and Bolt wrapped himself in a flag and shimmied in front of a worshipful crowd, chaos quietly began to unfold in the bowels of Beijing's National Stadium.

Over the next two hours, there would be a disqualification, a protest, an acceptance, an appeal and a second disqualification.

By early Thursday morning, only one of the three men who took victory laps celebrating an Olympic medal in the 200 meters Wednesday night would get to accept it. The only thing untouched after track officials had pored over replays of the race was Bolt's world record finish in 19.30 seconds, which surpassed Michael Johnson's 1996 mark by .02 of a second.

Second-place finisher Churandy Martina (19.82) of Netherlands Antilles earned a disqualification for stepping out of his lane. So did third-place finisher Wallace Spearmon (19.95) of the United States. As a result, Spearmon's teammates, Shawn Crawford and Walter Dix, ended up being awarded the silver and bronze medals.

For the United States, the night produced confusion, anger and disappointment -- but also a net gain in the medal column. Spearmon didn't win the bronze that he spent nearly 10 minutes celebrating in front of an international television audience. Crawford, who finished in 19.96, leapt from fourth to the silver medal but felt too awkward for revelry, describing himself as a "charity case."

And Dix, a burgeoning American star, climbed from fifth place in 19.98 to his second bronze medal of the week. Yet he had no idea he had any chance of reaching the medal stand when he unloaded his irritation over his performance to dozens of reporters.

"You never picture yourself coming home with a medal due to a DQ," Crawford said. "Every time I look at it, I'm going to be like: 'This medal was given to me. I don't deserve it.' "

The confusion began just before the start of the women's 400 hurdle final, a race in which Gar-Field High graduate Sheena (Johnson) Tosta finished in 53.70 seconds to claim the silver medal behind Jamaica's Melaine Walker (52.64). As the women lined up, with Tosta determined to avenge her fourth-place finish in the 2004 Summer Games, Bolt, Spearmon and Martina neared the finish of their giddy victory lap.

They were about halfway down the homestretch when a "DQ" -- disqualified -- suddenly appeared on the scoreboard next to Spearmon's name. When made aware of it, Spearmon touched his own chest as if to say, "Me?" Then his expression sank. He balled up the American flag he was holding, walked toward the exit at the end of the track and pitched it to Crawford, who had been doing a television interview about his fourth-place finish.

Crawford, also digesting the information on the scoreboard, realized he had just won a bronze medal (it wouldn't be upgraded to silver for nearly two more hours).

"I just stood there like, 'Man, what do I do?' " Crawford said. "By the time they announced the DQ, they were already lining up for the 400 hurdles. I didn't want to take a victory lap anyway. That just didn't seem classy to me."


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