Good bye Usain Bolt! | Sunday Observer

Good bye Usain Bolt!

Bolt’s customary style of celebrating victory
Bolt’s customary style of celebrating victory

Usain Bolt celebrates his 31st birthday today, for the first time since retiring from world athletics. It is a pity that he did not get the farewell he deserved as the world’s fastest man.

His final international race – the anchor lap for Jamaica in the men’s 4 x 100m relay final at the 2017 IAAF World Championship in London last weekend ended in a cry of pain, and a whimper.

Unfortunately, there was no final flourish for the legendary sprinter, who has been not only one of world’s great athletes, but also one of its great entertainers and above all, a good human being. None expected the 31-year-old sprint merchant would have made such an unceremonial exit from international track, with only a bronze medal, compared to his rich collection of global medals since 2008.

Prior to his departure from the British capital, the Jamaican enjoyed a enjoyed bender which saw him kiss a blonde fan, splash 500 Sterling Pounds on a single tip and blow smoke in his fiancée Kasi Bennett’s mouth. Bolt showed off his famous good nature by giving a waitress a whopping tip. Bolt had also shared a clip of him blowing cape smoke into Kasi’s mouth before kissing her inside a night club in London.

Perhaps, he would have tried to get rid of his mental agony after the tearful experience. His final career international saw Bolt lay face down on London’s Olympic Stadium track in great pain. It was a double blow for Bolt at the 2017 IAAF World Championship, after being pushed to the third place in men’s 100m final.

Nevertheless, Bolt had a great chance of ending his exemplary career in grand fashion by anchoring Jamaica to gold in men’s 100m relay. When Bolt got the baton from his teammate Yohan Blake to run the anchor lap, the Jamaican 4x100m men’s relay, their team was in third place.

On many occasions during past years, Bolt had easily bridged such gap with his sheer speed to win 4x100m relay golds for Jamaica. But it was a different story this time around. He began to gather speed, only to pull up and shout in pain from a leg injury about 60m from the finish line.

His teammates rushed to help him as he lay on the track at the very same stadium where Bolt and his countrymen set the world record in men’s 4 x 100m relay, clocking 36.84 seconds at the 2012 Olympic Games.

In fact, Linford Christy’s record in 1992 Barcelona Olympics as the oldest ever to win an Olympic men’s 100m gold at 36 years was safe when USA’s Justin Gatlin gave Bolt his first nightmare in London. The 35-year-old American, who had served two doping bans before, sprang the upset of the decade when he won the 100m gold, shattering Bolt’s dream of a fourth successive World Championship gold medal in the short sprint.

Controversial Gatlin has rained on Bolt's farewell parade by humbling the sprint king in the men's 100m final. Gatlin, twice banned for doping, came through almost unnoticed in lane seven in 9.92 seconds to win the gold medal. Gatlin’s teammate Christian Coleman was one hundredth of a second faster than Bolt to win the silver in 9.94 and the Jamaican had to be satisfied with the bronze for his unimpressive timing of 9.95.

It was exactly eight years ago that Bolt took the world sprint records under his belt and the writer was on the spot covering that record breaking feats at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Germany.

On August 16, 2009, Bolt had his bullet-style career best run to win the 100m gold with a world record timing of 9.58 seconds.

Four days later at the same Olympiastadion in Berlin, Bolt erased legendary Michael Johnson’s 200m world record, clocking a magical 19.19 despite running against the wind.

Bolt has won six 100m gold medals in global events – three each in Olympics and at IAAF World Championships since Beijing 2008. With his last career medal – bronze in men’s 100m in London 2017, he has nine global medals in 100m event. In contrast, he has pocketed 11 global medals in 200m, including three at Olympics and four at IAAF World Championships.

As most star athletes, Bolt too had begun his international career hardly unnoticed. In his first major international meet for Jamaica, Bolt was placed fifth in the 200m semi finals at the IAAF World Youth Championships in Debrecen in 2001.

Two years later, he was selected to compete in the next IAAF World Youth Championships, this time in 400m. Though he was down to run in the men’s 400m semi finals in Sherbrook, Bolt did not face the starter’s orders.

Bolt’s Olympic debut in Athens 2004 too was a nightmare, finishing fifth in 200m heats with a timing of only 21.05 seconds. But at the next three Olympic Games, he won successive gold medals in 200m event. He painted a dismal picture on his IAAF World Championship debut too, finishing last in the 200m final with an unimpressive 26.27 in Helsinki 2005.

Then in Osaka 2007, he won the silver, before striking the 200m gold medals at four successive IAAF World Championships in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015.

Since running a global 100m in 10.03 seconds in 2007 and improving it to 9.69 on the following year, Bolt had done the short sprint under ten seconds for almost a decade – a unique feature in his celebrated career. He even has a better 200m record, running under 20 seconds for a 12-year period since 2004.

With his height and long legs, Bolt enjoyed many biomechanical advantages. But one area in which has affected the speed machine is his spine, which suffers from an abnormal curvature. This condition has often hampered young Bolt’s early career, though his coach had helped him to overcome the it later.

Bolt has been a quite philanthropist, refraining from blowing his own trumpet. On the same year he shattered two sprint world records, Bolt had paid over Sterling Pounds 10,000 to formally adopt an abandoned cheetah cub in Nairobi, named Lightning Bolt, and has since paid Sterling Pounds 2,300 a year to cover its upkeep at the animal orphanage. His support for Kenya’s wildlife conservation efforts are surpassed by his charitable work closer to home.

The Usain Bolt Foundation works to benefit local youngsters, through sporting provisions, improving community structures, and providing financial assistance to talented Jamaicans to excel in their chosen disciplines.

Right from the beginning, he has ensured his sponsorship deal with Puma is provided for his hometown with the global sportswear manufacturer sending equipment to his alma mater, William Knibb Memorial High School annually to help others follow in its most famous alumni’s footsteps. Bolt reminds the popular hit “Santa Clause is coming to town”, visiting his native village for Christmas with loads of gift parcels to his fellow villagers. He had spent a colossal sum to provide drinking water to his villagers who had been at the receiving end for decades.

Bolt has ended his illustrious career with 14 global medals in the world championships, 11 of them gold, and with eight Olympic gold medals. It is hard to say whether we could see an invincible sprinter once again during our lifetime.

There had been similar thoughts when American superstar Carl Lewis was at his best in the 80s but Bolt emerged two decades later to stun the world.

We may find another set of 100m and 200m gold medalists in Olympics and World Championships in future but how soon such champions could beat Bolt’s world records will be a million-dollar question.

Yours truly was fortunate enough to witness all his golden performances in three Olympics and four IAAF World Championships. Thank you Bolt for those stunning performances which had thrilled the athletic fraternity.