Usain Bolt likes to do double doubles. He won gold in the 100 metres at the Olympics and World Championships on the same day of the year ( August 16), setting a world record each time. And he did the same in the 200. Today in 2008 he caused his latest sensation at the Olympics. Not by winning the 200 metres (it was utterly inevitable) but by breaking Michael Johnson's world record, the other-worldly 19.32 seconds set at the 1996 Games ( August 1). Bolt set out to do it, too. In the 100 metres, he'd jogged over the finishing line. Here he went for it all the way, getting there with only two hundredths to spare.
On the same day the following year, he completed the sprint double at the World Championships by cutting the record down to size, a neat and frightening 19.19 seconds. He also helped Jamaica win the relay in both championships.
On the same day in 2008, there was more success for Jamaica on the track as Melaine Walker won the Olympic 400 metres hurdles. Her time of 52.64 seconds was a Games record.
Forget Chris Hoy's three Olympic gold medals in 2008 ( August 19). This was the really big one. One of the greatest clutch performances in cycling history. The one-kilometre time trial was an absolute beast at these Olympics. Rider after rider set a fast time, culminating in Olympic records by Shane Kelly of Australia and Germany's Stefan Nimke, who'd won the minor medals behind Britain's Jason Queally four years earlier. Today the penultimate challenge came from the hulking Frenchman Arnaud Tournant, who'd gone under a minute at high altitude. So it was no surprise at all when he became the latest to take the lead, clocking 1:00.896. Last to go was Christopher Andrew Hoy. Reigning world champion though he was, to win gold he had to break the world record at sea level. Never in doubt. Hoy was the only rider to crack 18 seconds for the first 250 metres, and he stayed inside Tournant's time throughout, finishing in 1:00.711. The time trial's one of the great tests in cycling, and a great competitive spectacle when it turns out like this. A shame and a scandal that it was dropped from the Olympic schedule afterwards.
On the same day, Shirley Robertson was winning another gold for Britain. Already an Olympic champion from four years before, she teamed up with Sarah Ayton and Sarah Webb to form the original 'three blondes in a boat'. In the Yngling class, which was held at the Games for the first time, they won with a race to spare. Four years later, the two Sarahs retained the title with another blonde (August 17).
Having shot a record 19-under-par at the British Open that year (July 23), Tiger Woods shot 18 under at the US PGA - but this time he had company. Bob May gave Woods a head start of six shots before reeling off three consecutive rounds of 66, forcing Woods to birdie the last two holes to force a play-off. By then both players' past records had come into play. Woods of course knew how to win Majors. Apart from anything else, he was the defending champion here. Poor Bob was something else. The previous year, he'd won a professional tournament for the first time (September 12) - after finishing runner-up an eye-blinking 22 times. And a voice may have whispered in his ear during the last round and the three-hole play-off: remember you're a perennial runner-up, not someone who wins Majors. May hooked five of his last six drives, leaving him with difficult recovery shots. And of course he was playing a Tiger. At the first extra hole, after May's wonderful 70-yard chip sent the ball close to the hole from out of the rough, Woods rolled in a 25-yard birdie putt to take the lead. Tiger made a complete mess of the third and final hole, hitting a tree, then finding the rough followed by a bunker. But May couldn't take advantage, landing in the rough yet again, then missing narrowly with a 40-foot putt. Woods was the first golfer since Ben Hogan in 1953 (July 10) to win three Majors in the same year. He won the next one too (April 8, 2001), to become the only one to hold all four at the same time.
1993 At the World Championships, Colin Jackson won the 110 metres hurdles in 12.91 seconds, taking a hundredth of a second off the world record and setting one that lasted nearly 13 years. British team mate Tony Jarrett finished second, today and at the 1995 Championships.
Another hurdles world record was set on the same day in 1988. Like so many others from those dark ages, this one still stands. At the Bulgarian national championships, Yordanka Donkova ran the 100 metre hurdles in a grotesque 12.21 seconds. The runner-up ran 14.74!
Talking of world records by scary Eastern European women, one of them made the first 70-metre discus throw. Today in 1975, Faina Melnik of the Soviet Union reached 70.20 in Zurich. It was the 10th of the 11 world records she set with the implement, which was a dangerous weapon in her hands. Her first was only 64.22 metres in 1971, her last 70.50 in 1976. She was Olympic champion in 1972.
Two British swimmers came very close to winning gold and silver at these Olympics. In the first open water race ever held at the Games, Keri-Anne Payne and Cassie Patten tracked the formidable Russian Larisa Ilchenko all the way. Despite the long distances (10,000 metres today), these open water races often end in close finishes, and Ilchenko finished only a second and a half ahead of Payne, with Patten less than two seconds further back in bronze. Disappointment but no disgrace: Ilchenko had won eight world titles, including three at 10,000, beating Patten into second place in the last two. Payne won the event at the 2009 Worlds.
The following day at the Olympics, the inaugural men's race was held over the same distance. Again Britain won silver, again only one and a half seconds from gold. In 2004, David Davies of Wales had won a medal in the actual pool: bronze in the 1500 metres (August 21). Now he finished just behind Maarten van der Weijden of Holland.
The great god Paavo Nurmi won the first of his nine Olympic gold medals. But he was a tad lucky. In the 5000, he'd been beaten into second place by Joseph Guillemot. Today a late change in the starting time cost the Frenchman dear. He'd consumed a large lunch when he was informed that the 10,000 metres was to start more than three hours earlier. Guillemot tried to run away from Nurmi in the back straight, but he was carrying too much ballast to keep it up, and Nurmi won by nearly ten yards. Guillemots are brown-and-white seabirds that nest on cliffs. They're known to vomit their food in the general direction of would-be predators. Only one Guillemot is known to have regurgitated food over a predator who beat him in an Olympic final. It was Nurmi's least dignified exit.