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Yang, Bolt an unlikely pair
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Forsyth County News
Did you ever think you’d see the names Yong-Eun Yang and Usain Bolt in the same sentence?

They served up two amazing displays of athletic prowess on Sunday afternoon, separated by three hours and one ocean.

One’s feat took all of nine and a half seconds. The other’s unfolded over four hours.

One performance came from the top-ranked athlete in the world, the world-record holder in his event. The other came from the 110th-ranked athlete in the world. But he defeated the top-ranked athlete in his sport to win.

One featured a tall, 22-year-old Jamaican, still learning his event, who ran faster than anyone in history and became the first Jamaican to win a 100-meter World Championship.

The other featured a short, 37-year-old South Korean, who’s been golfing for 18 years, who never moved faster than a walk and became the first Asian to win a major golf championship.

And yet, they both seemed to win for the same reason. They never let themselves be awed by their events, they embraced their moments, and had a blast.

So improbable was Yang’s victory over the previously indomitable-with-a-lead-in-majors Tiger Woods that he remarked in his post-PGA Championship interview, “You never know in life, this might be my last win as a golfer. But this is a great day!”

Lang didn’t seem to know that Woods, his playing partner Sunday, was 14-for-14 in majors when holding the third round lead. In fact, he had led after every round. All that remained was the coronation for major win number 15.

But as Woods grimly went about his business, guarding his lead without any sign of enjoyment, Yang was having one fine time.

As he toured the course, jammed with media and spectators craning to catch a glimpse of Woods, Yang was all smiles, acknowledging the gallery with waves, tossing spare golf balls to fans, mugging for cameras, and exulting over his many fine shots.

And he never went away. Perhaps it was the experience of beating Woods head-to-head in the 2006 HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai.

Maybe he just didn’t know any better.

Or, perhaps, it was the lifetime he spent preparing for this moment. “I did have a rough night yesterday,” Yang revealed. “But as soon as I got onto the first tee, I became myself. It’s always what I’ve dreamed about. It was always what I sort of envisioned.

“I wasn’t nervous. It’s a game of golf. It’s not like you’re in an octagon where you’re fighting against Tiger and he’s going to bite you, or swing at you with his 9-iron.”

Yang remained calm enough to hole out a pitch shot for eagle on the 14th hole, taking the lead for good. He remained calm despite a three-putt bogey on 17, which kept his lead at a single shot.

He then unleashed one of the great finishing shots in golf history. His second shot on 18, a hybrid-3, soared over a tree, sailed 206 yards, right on line, and came to rest 12 feet from the hole. He drained the putt for the perfect finish.

“It means the world right now,” Yang said, after hoisting his bag in celebration. “I do know the significance of it. I hope this win would be an impact both to golf in Korea as well as golf in Asia, so that all the young golfers, Korean and Asian, would probably build their dreams and expand their horizons a bit with this win.”

You’d like to think that Bolt’s incredible 9.58 world record 100-meter dash would create the same inspiration for Jamaican youth. But the little island has produced outstanding sprinters for generations. Jamaican high schoolers have long dominated the sprints at the Penn Relays.

It’s also hard to be inspired by someone who is so good that he seems, well, inhuman. It’s hard to imagine anyone else doing what Bolt has done.

Here’s a guy who was considered a 100-meter novice just 18 months ago; the 200 was his specialty. He didn’t even decide to run the 100 at Beijing until midsummer.

He also defies convention by laughing and clowning around during his prerace routine. He doesn’t seem to have an ounce of concern, and certainly no worry, in his make-up.

Now he stands as the only person on the planet to have covered 100 meters in under 9.7 seconds. And 9.6 as well. In Sunday’s race, Tyson Gay broke his American record by six tenths of a second, no small feat there, and finished six feet behind Bolt.

“I’m really happy Usain Bolt won the record,” Gay said after the race. “I know that might sound strange. I knew it was humanly possible for someone to run that fast. Unfortunately, it wasn’t me.”

No, on this day, the winners were the ones having all the fun.

When not practicing his avocation, Denton Ashway practices his vocation with the law firm of Ashway and Haldi in Cumming.