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Jamaica's Bolt is rewriting record books

It's impossible to take your eyes off Usain Bolt, even if you're Usain Bolt.

It's impossible to take your eyes off Usain Bolt, even if you're Usain Bolt.

The fastest man in history held up his hand at the start of the news conference to discuss what it was like last night to smash Michael Johnson's granite-etched record in the 200 meters.

"Hold on," Bolt said. A TV to his left was showing a replay of his finish, and the Jamaican sprinter was transfixed.

"I was thinking, 'I look cool,' " Bolt said. "I was thinking, 'That guy's fast! ' I blew my mind and I blew the world's mind. "

That he is able to talk about himself that way without seeming arrogant is almost as amazing as his two stunning gold-medal runs. Bolt, who turns 22 today, always seems to be having a good time. He danced before and after his race, first to keep himself loose and then to get the party started.

In 28.99 seconds - 9.69 seconds in the 100, 19.30 in the 200 - Bolt made the 2008 Beijing Olympics his personal dance hall.

"It's called 'To the World,' " Bolt said of the pose he strikes before and after his races. He leans back and points with both index fingers, his arms in position to shoot an arrow from a bow.

The thing is, he could outrun that arrow.

"It's a Jamaican dance," Bolt said, "but I turned it into my celebration. "

Bert Cameron, who became Jamaica's first world champion by winning the 400 meters in Helsinki in 1983, said the streets of Kingston were empty when Bolt ran. They filled up right afterward.

"Every soul in Jamaica was watching," Cameron said. "Everything is irie. "

As anyone who ever grooved to a Bob Marley song knows, irie is Jamaican for "everything good and right. " We can only hope everything is good and right as Bolt and the Jamaican sprinters assert their dominance in the sprint events here.

The doping cloud that has hung over track for the last five years has not cleared completely. Not even close. When anyone comes along and does something unreal, it's reasonable to wonder how real it is.

Bolt beat a field of seven Olympic sprinters - including Shawn Crawford, the American who won the 200 in Athens in 2004 - by more than half a second. He broke a revered record - the 19.32 Johnson ran in Atlanta in 1996. On Saturday, Bolt broke his own world record in the 100, running a 9.69 even though he coasted the last 20 meters. His 200 time was the equivalent of two world-record 100-meter runs of 9.65 seconds.

He is not part of the evolution of sprinting. He is a revolution.

Victor Conte, the evil genius behind the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative operation, knows a little bit about producing world records through chemistry. In an article that appeared in the New York Daily News this week, Conte wrote that he warned former World Anti-Doping Agency chief Dick Pound that Jamaica and other Caribbean nations were hotbeds for doping.

"I had received information about a specific drug supplier - WADA received this person's name, address and phone number - who was allegedly working with elite track athletes," Conte wrote. He added that Jamaica was one of the countries that had no national anti-doping agency.

Conte's point was that the cheating goes on in the off-season, so testing in-competition, as WADA does at the Olympics - is "more about propaganda" than catching cheaters, who have "tapered" from their doping regimen well before being tested.

Pound resigned as head of WADA two weeks after meeting with Conte, who says WADA did not act on the information he provided.

You read all that and you wonder about Bolt. Then you listen to the people who know him, and who know sprinting, and you wonder whether he is merely a freak of nature.

Bolt is 6-foot-5, a half-foot taller than most of his competitors.

"He takes one stride and I have to take 2 1/2 to keep up," said Kim Collins, who finished sixth in the 200. "It's ridiculous. When Michael Johnson did it, it didn't look that easy. How fast can a human being go? "

"He's beautiful to watch," former world-record hurdler Renaldo Nehemiah said. "It is poetry in motion. He's a gazelle. And he has to get to 26, 27 before he hits his proverbial prime. "

Cameron said Jamaicans have been waiting for Bolt to deliver performances like this since he won the world junior title at age 15. To them, these dominant runs were inevitable. It's the rest of the world that is dumbstruck.

For Americans, these will be the Michael Phelps Olympics. For the rest of the world, they will belong to Bolt. Both delivered epic, unforgettable moments on the biggest stage there is. Both were so good, people wondered whether they were real.

In 2008, with all we know, that's the ultimate compliment for an athlete.