Of all the athletic talents, the ability to run as fast as the wind is one of the most basic and admired. So many sports favor the accomplished sprinter -- happy is the team that has the batter who can beat out the improbable single or the back who can dart from scrimmage through a field of lumbering behemoths.
The ability to run fast was surely among the first of human talents, when man the hunter successfully pursued game or himself escaped when he was the one being hunted. Running has become faster ever since, and it would seem inevitable that at some time the best sprinters in the world will not be able to stretch the laws of physics any further.
Don't tell that to the Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt. On Sunday at the world track and field championships in Berlin, the flamboyant athlete ran the 100 meters in an astonishing 9.58 seconds, smashing his own world record by 0.11 of a second.
Unlike his Olympic run, he didn't slow down at the finish, knowing that the American, Tyson Gay, who ended up finishing in 9.71 seconds, a U.S. national record, would be competing hard.
How astonishing is this? Consider the greats: Jesse Owens ran 10.30 in the 1936 Olympics; Carl Lewis ran 9.92 in winning Olympic gold in 1988. Usain Bolt is in an extraordinary class all his own -- and more records may come his way. The man seemingly without limits is only 22.