So that’s it. End of the start line jokes, end of the crazy celebrations, end of an era.
Usain Bolt has been top of the game for over a decade now. Pardon a few dodgy runs, most notably his 2011 World Championships false start, no one has challenged. Asafa Powell, Tyson Gay, Johan Blake – all have tried and failed. The man who finally knocked him off his perch is the man no one wanted to get anywhere near, but more of that later, let’s remind ourselves of how brilliant he is.
The above video, courtesy of Universal Sports, shows you what is arguably his finest moment. The current world record in the 100m, knocking a whole 0.11 seconds off his previous time he had set the year before. He now holds the 3 fastest times of all time, coming in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic finals. In the 200m his WR stands at 19.19, with half of the top ten times being under his ownership.
8 Olympic Gold Medals, 11 World Championship Golds, the first man to hold both the 100m and 200m world record, the most successful athlete in World Championship history, the only man to win both the 100m and 200m in three consecutive Olympics, 4 time Laureus World Sportsman of the year and a really cool guy. The accolades and statistics never end, he has done it all.
“A lot of people, a lot of legends have come before me. But this is my time”
Taking all this into consideration, it is quite staggering that for many, it is not these titles which secure his immortal status. When Usain came through, athletics was dying. The interest was falling, sponsors were contracted to other sports and they needed a new formula for success. Bolt was the secret ingredient. This man beat the world record at the age of 21, with many from the general public not having a clue who he was. Oh, and he did it whilst celebrating for the last 15m. The IAAF’s prayers had been answered.
No one had ever had so much swagger. The sprinters have always brought a lot of excitement to athletics but more often than not the competitors were too committed to let their personality shine through. Here was someone who could seemingly do it with ease. Hilariously revealing his race day schedule consists of napping and chicken nuggets pretty much sums up his ideology throughout all of his career. The archetypical Jamaican – he just happened to be a freak of nature at the same time.
“There is no athlete that can compete with him…he’s a global superstar” – Former 200m and 400m WR holder, Michael Johnson
Of course, with success, there will always be people who want to bring you back to earth. It has always astounded me when people criticise his arrogance because for me there are two types of extreme confidence. There is one side which evokes the belief that you are the best no matter what and anyone who thinks different is an idiot, demanding respect rather than welcoming it upon achievement. Then there is Bolt.
His confidence is infectious and optimistic. He is loving his ride through life and not letting the stress of competition ruin him. Many say the hardest challenge is not getting to the top, it’s staying there; Bolt is one of the first to truly enjoy his time of dominance.
So a true celebrity in a stagnant sport, unquestionably the most successful at what he does and someone who can dish out a joke as quickly as he can move his legs. But for me, the thing that remains the most impressive is how he has never needed that extra help his peers have thought was so necessary.
It must be tough looking at Bolt, knowing he has never doped, never needed steroids and his still the main man. Gay, Powell and, most famously, Gatlin have all been caught with some sort of banned substance in their system, annihilating how they would be remembered. The latter is the man who ruined the perfect ending to Bolt’s perfect story and, despite him serving his time, he will forever be remembered as the pantomime villain.
At first, I felt sorry for Gatlin. His finest moment being overshadowed by the big man. But then I remember the legacy each of them was leaving behind. Gatlin, a double drugs cheat who is only competing today due to informing on cheating team mates and appealing over and over again. Then Bolt. An icon of positivity within a field ruined by cheats. Bolt should have won, he should have got his final hurrah, but it doesn’t mean he’s not the main man.
You have changed how people view your sport, became one of the biggest celebrities worldwide, you are a national icon and the greatest example of how you can be a success whilst playing fair. For me, you are an inspiration. For a lad who many thought was too tall to be a proper sprinter, you made me feel like the coolest kid in the playground. The most naturally gifted athlete of all time, Usain Bolt.