- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 25, 2009

BERLIN | This wasn’t a scene the Americans were hoping to see again.

The setting shifted, yet the world championship results played out eerily similar to the Beijing Olympics.

Usain Bolt still can’t be beat, the U.S. 400-meter relay teams still struggle to work the baton around the track and the Jamaicans remain atop the sprint rivalry.

Sure, the Americans won the medal count, just like last summer, but the Jamaicans got all the buzz.

Bolt electrified the world again, improving his world records in the 100 and 200. With his antics and outgoing personality, the fun-loving runner dazzled the Olympic Stadium audience.

He also showed just how big of gap there is in sprinting these days.

Even when Bolt went all out - grunting and clenching his teeth on his way to a 19.19 in the 200 - there looked to be more in his tank.

And there’s no telling how low that mark can go.

“I’m just waiting for the lights to flash ‘game over’ ‘cause I felt like I was in a video game,” U.S. sprinter Shawn Crawford said after the 200.

Bolt’s in a class by himself. He has elevated track, giving it a “did you see that?” element.

“This is an exceptional athlete that comes around once in a generation,” said Doug Logan, the CEO of USA Track and Field. “He’s great for Jamaica, great for the sport, great for the U.S.”

For the United States?

“Keeps us from getting complacent,” Logan said. “Our goal is to not allow him to joke his way through the last 10 meters. Our goal is to keep that smile off his face in the last 10 meters, to have him think he has somebody close and is going to chase him.”

Chasing seems to be the only option against Bolt.

Tyson Gay tried to keep up in the 100 - setting an American mark - but finished second as Bolt rocketed to a 9.58.

Bolt’s only real rival is the clock as he erases chunks of time that normally take years to break.

“The good side is he’s bringing people into track and field that traditionally would not have watched the sport,” former sprint star Michael Johnson said. “On the other hand, I’ve said for years, to talk about world records, world records, world records - that’s not what this sport is about. It won’t build itself on world records.

“The same thing is the case when everybody knows who’s going to win the race already. It becomes a sideshow. It loses some interest.”

The same might be said of the rivalry between the United States and the Jamaicans in the sprint events.

The Jamaicans trumped the Americans again, winning five of the six sprint events. The streak was interrupted only when Allyson Felix won her third straight world title in the 200.

Even so, Logan doesn’t think the difference between the two nations is as great as it appears.

“If you take [Bolt] out of the equation, I think we’re McDonald’s and Burger King, Coke and Pepsi,” Logan said. “We’ll find a way. We’re not laying down. We’ll come to run.”

The Americans continue to struggle in the sprint relays. The men were disqualified in Berlin for making an exchange outside the allowable zone, then the women didn’t finish after Muna Lee pulled up with a hamstring injury.

In Beijing, both relay teams didn’t advance after fumbling the baton.

Following Beijing, Logan made it his mission to develop a pipeline at the grassroots level to groom rising stars. It was part of his “Project 30” initiative, a plan designed to propel the United States toward the goal of winning 30 medals at the 2012 London Olympics.

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