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Bolt and Solomon highlights from a great night
Melinda Gainsford-Taylor
10:30 AEST Mon Aug 6 2012

Melinda Gainsford-Taylor is a three-time Olympian who joins Nine's expert athletics commentary team at the Olympic Games in London.
Melinda Gainsford-Taylor

What an incredible couple of days of athletics at the London Olympic Stadium. The atmosphere on Saturday night when the hosts won three gold medals in the space of an hour was unlike anything I have ever experienced. It was almost a constant deafening roar as they moved from victory, to victory lap to medal ceremony with local heroes Jessica Ennis (heptathlon), Mo Farah (10,000m) and Greg Rutherford (long jump) keeping the capacity crowd on their feet.

Just when I thought that night would be hard to top, Usain Bolt and Steve Solomon made it two in a row that I'll long remember. What an incredible athlete Bolt has proven to be. He came into these Games with some doubt hanging over his head after he was beaten by training partner Yohan Blake in the Jamaican trials. People weren't sure whether he was fully fit and whether he'd be able to beat Blake when it mattered most. His semi-final performance made it pretty clear there were no injury concerns and in the final he was simply amazing.

One of Bolt's few weaknesses is his starts, but in the final he got out of the blocks fairly well, matching the early pace of Justin Gatlin of the USA. From there he powered home, leaving the others in his wake.

When it comes to an Olympic final there is a massive amount of pressure on the athletes. It all comes down to that one race to determine who takes the gold medal and the winner is the athlete who executes their run perfectly, as Bolt did. He is only relatively young and still has a massive amount of improvement in him, but I think the greatest thing about him is his incredibly infectious personality. The whole world seems to love him. He has this lovable cockiness which avoids tipping over into the kind of arrogance which can turn people off a lot of star athletes. Everyone went absolutely wild when he won, and there were very few people who weren't happy to see him take the gold. He is a man who simply looks like he is loving life, and why wouldn't he be?

Steve Solomon is a success story which I hope won't be lost in the fireworks surrounding Bolt's incredible victory. Solomon ran a personal best in the 400m heat and then another personal best in the semi-final to qualify for a shot at the medals. The way he fought to the line in the semi-final when everyone else was tiring was so inspirational. I cannot stress enough how fantastic it is to have an Australian athlete qualify for an Olympic final in any event, but especially over the shorter distances.

I am part of the selection board for Athletics Australia and one of our mandates is to nurture talent and give potential stars the encouragement and experience they need to develop their careers. Solomon, at only 19, was given the opportunity to run in the individual 400m because we knew it would be a great experience for such a young talent. For him to qualify for the final in his first Olympics is beyond anyone's dreams. He will take these memories with him all the way to Brazil in 2016 and he promises to be one of our stars well into the future. The whole country should be very proud of Steve Solomon.

I was also incredibly proud of Mitchell Watt winning a silver medal in the long jump. He is just a lovely person and thoroughly deserved his medal. He has had a great year and a great season and to see him rewarded for all his hard work was a great thrill for all of us.

I can't wait now to see Sally Pearson take on that first 100m hurdles heat. The first race of any Olympic campaign is often the hardest. You have to shake off the cobwebs and if you've been waiting like she has you're dying to get involved and have your turn in front of the crowd. I spoke to her recently and she seems very relaxed and ready to go and her training sessions have been going really well. Her event is one of the more challenging, but she is one of the best technicians in the world when it comes to hurdling and she has plenty of experience in handling the pressure. I think she can deliver when it counts and I can’t wait to cheer her on.

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