“I would say I’m the greatest.”
“This is very good for the country.”
Prime Minister of Jamaica after the 200m Olympic finals
Jamaica stunned the world yesterday. Taking home the gold, silver, and bronze in the men’s 200-metres finals at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
I haven’t written about this year’s Olympics, because I hadn’t found any motivation to connect it to screenwriting. Then suddenly a bolt of inspiration hit me. And not just as in Usain Bolt being dubbed the fastest man ever after he became the first person ever to win the 100m & the 200m races in back to back Olympics. But because of Jamaica’s historic 1,2,3 finish in the 200m race.
Think about that—The population of Jamaica is smaller than the population of the state of Iowa. In other words, a country of less than 3 million people had three sons in one race who were faster than the other 7 billion people living on this planet. Sprinters Bolt, Yohan Blake, and Warren Weir walked away with the medals sweep.
That doesn’t happen by accident. Four year’s ago in the post Screenwriting Jamaican-Olympic Style, I wrote about the long establish training tradition that has made Jamaica such a force in the men’s and women’s track & field. And the connection to screenwriting and filmmaking is some incredible things can happen in small tucked away places, but they are years in the making.
Remember I launched this blog in January of 2008 after seeing Juno and learning about a Minneapolis screenwriter (Diablo Cody) who wrote that script in the suburbs of Minneapolis. In the post Beatles, Cody, King & 10,000 Hours, I mentioned that while it was Cody’s first screenplay it followed 15 years of everyday writing. (Including four years of writing while at the University of Iowa.)
Yesterday all the talk about Bolt and the one time fastest man in the world, Carl Lewis, reminded me that I once stood next to greatness. It was 1987 at the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, Califirnia. Lewis had won four gold medals at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and would later be named by Sports Illustrated “Olympian if the Century.” I was a cameraman shooting footage with an Eclair NPR 16mm camera as Lewis performed “one of the most outstanding individual performances ever witnessed at the Relays, as all six of his leaps in the long jump exceeded 28 feet.” I was 25 years old, the exact age of Lewis—and the exact age of Bolt.
Probably what makes me appreciate the efforts of both Lewis and Bolt more than the other Olympic athletes is I won my share of races through high school. I’m sure if I was once a gymnast, a volleyball player or a diver I would be more fixated on those sports and athletes. While being the fastest runner in the 50-yard dash at English Estates Elementary School Olympics is a thin connection to what’s happening in the London Olympics, it’s a thin connection I enjoy making.
It’s actually what’s fun about writing this blog. While I’ve been able to parlay a love of photography, movies, and a film school degree into a lifelong career in production—even got to shoot a documentary in Kingston, Jamaica back in ’06—I would never confuse what I do with what Billy Wilder and Paddy Chayefsy did or what Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin do today. But my little successes (and failures) make me appreciate their huge talent. And the hope that we all have is that we can learn from the great ones (and even the less than great ones) and it will improve our work.
P.S. Usian Bolt created a little controversy yesterday when he said, “No one remembers Carl Lewis.” Well, I remember Carl Lewis. I remember his greatness. But I also remember his aloofness. I remember that he once said, “I am limitless.” Much like Muhammad Ali saying, “I am the greatest.” Now we can put Bolt’s ”I would say I’m the greatest” on that same shelf—and watch how time handles those words. Remember, it was once thought that breaking the four-minute mile was impossible. The world record today is a more than 16 seconds below the four-minute mark. The first sub-four minute mile happened back in 1954. Time has a way of smiling on what we think is great today.
And when you’re talking great at the 2012 Olympics it’s hard to overlook Michael Phelps winning his record-setting 22th Olympic medal—spread over three Olympics. I wonder if Bolt remembers him. I know that was last week’s news, but Phelps does have 18 gold medals—13 more than Bolt currently has, and double the number of any other Olympian.
P.P.S. And while not on par with what Jamaica’s done, I must give a shout-out to 16-year-old gymnast Gabby Douglas, who came to West Des Moines, Iowa to train with Shawn Johnson’s coach Liang Chow and won two gold medals in London.