USAIN BOLT: LIVING LEGEND, THE FASTEST, GREATEST ATHLETE EVER ON EARTH | Sunday Observer

USAIN BOLT: LIVING LEGEND, THE FASTEST, GREATEST ATHLETE EVER ON EARTH

Bolt’s blinding feats in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at the Olympic Games in Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016 made him the Greatest Sprinter and first athlete to win Triple-Triple Gold Medals and set World Records. His first child is named Olympia Lightning Bolt

The Hon. Usain Bolt, OJ, CD, OLY is considered the greatest athlete of all time who illuminated the track with his superhuman talent and stellar personality. His autobiography, “My Story: 9.58: Being the World’s Fastest Man,” was released in 2010.

The Associated Press published in 2012, “Bolt has helped track transform itself from a dying sport to one with a singular, smiling, worldwide star.” A documentary on his life titled, “I Am Bolt,” was released in 2016.

An eight-time Olympic gold medalist, Bolt is the only sprinter to win the Olympic 100m and 200m titles at three consecutive Olympics – Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016. He also won two 4x100m relay gold medals. He gained worldwide fame for his double sprint victory in world record times at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games which made him the first athlete to hold both records since fully automatic time became mandatory.

An eleven-time World Champion, he won consecutive World Championship100m, 200m and 4x100m relay golds from 2009 to 2015 with the exception of a 100m false start in 2011. He is the most successful athlete of the World Championships and the first to win four World Championship titles in the 200m and one of the most successful in the 100m with three titles. Bolt holds 19 Guinness World Records for his accomplishments and victories in the sport.

Bolt improved upon his second 100m world record of 9.69 with 9.58 sec in 2009 – the biggest improvement since the start of electronic timing. He has twice broken the 200m world record, setting 19.30 in 2008 and 19.19 in 2009. He has helped Jamaica to three 4x100m world records, with the current being 36.84 in 2012. Bolt’s most successful event is the 200m with three Olympic and four World titles. He holds the world under-20 and under-18 records for the 200m. From 2005, Bolt was coached by Glen Mills.

Bolt expresses a love for dancing and his character is frequently described as laid-back and relaxed. He has the nickname “Lightning Bolt” due to his name and speed. He is a Catholic and known for making the Sign of the Cross before racing competitively and wears a Miraculous Medal during his races. His middle name is St. Leo. Bolt’s longtime girlfriend Kasi Bennett gave birth on May 17, 2020, to their first child, a daughter named, Olympia Lightning Bolt.

Early Years, Competitions and Rise to Fame

Born August 21, 1986 to Wellesley and Jennifer Bolt in Sherwood Content, Jamaica, he has a brother, Sadiki, and a sister, Sherine. Bolt spent his time playing cricket and attended Waldensia Primary. By twelve, he had become the schools fastest over the 100m. Upon his entry to William Knibb Memorial High School, Bolt’s cricket coach noticed his speed and urged him to try athletics.

Bolt won his first high school championships medal in 2001; a silver in the 200m. Pablo McNeil soon became his primary coach and the two enjoyed a positive partnership. Bolt made his first appearance on the world stage at the 2001 IAAF World Youth in Debrecen, Hungary in the 200m. At the CARIFTA Games, Bolt set championship records in the 200m and 400m.

The 2002 World Junior Championships were held in Kingston and Bolt was given a chance to prove his credentials. He won the 200m and became the youngest world-junior gold medalist ever. The expectation from the home crowd had made him so nervous that he had put his shoes on the wrong feet.

It turned out to be a revelatory experience for Bolt, as he vowed never again to let himself be affected by pre-race nerves. The rush of medals continued as he won four golds at the CARIFTA Games 2003 and two golds in his final Jamaican High School Championships in 2003.

Personal Recollections of Bolt in 2003, 2004, 2012

The 2003 IAAF World Youth Championships in Sherbrooke was a coming-out party for Bolt. I was the Team Manager of Sri Lanka. On July 13, 2003, on the brand new stadium of the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec, nothing could stop him, not even the terrible weather. A few weeks shy of his 17th birthday, Bolt won the 200m with a surreal time of 20.40 and provided a glimpse into his iconic future.

The Bolt of 2003 was already getting faster with every race and only just beginning to exploit his immense potential. The 200m was already one of his specialties, but he wasn’t yet a 100m runner. In fact, it would be another three years before Bolt would compete in track-and-field’s crown jewel event. The public in Sherbrook knew nothing about Bolt’s early success, but in the world of athletics, he was already making waves.

Seeing it on the track was a revelation for me. I had never seen a young man with such compelling athletic qualities. I remember that he was fairly tapered with his long legs, but above all, I remember the speed at which he attacked his turns and the fluidity of his race. It seemed so easy and natural. He was already six-foot-five, but his muscle mass was not yet fully developed. Already at the time, he was a head above the others, literally and figuratively. I watched the 200m final from the sidelines. I was astonished by how comfortable he was with his size. He was at ease putting on a show.

Bolt turned professional in 2004. He became the first junior sprinter to run the 200m under 20 seconds. Bolt headed to the Athens 2004 Olympic Games and we met again and he was determined. However, a leg injury eliminated him in the first round of the 200m. In the London 2012 Olympic Games, I met the legendary world and Olympic champion Bolt along with his coach Mills on the track.

Year 2008 and Beijing Summer Olympics

In Beijing, Bolt qualified for the 100m final with times of 9.92 and 9.85. In the final, he broke new ground, winning in 9.69. This was an improvement upon his own world record. Not only was the record set without a favourable wind but also visibly slowed down to celebrate before he finished and his shoe lace was untied.

Bolt stated that his goal was just to win the gold. Experts later predicted that the Jamican would have ended in a textbook-defying 9.55 had he not slowed down at the finish to indulge in a session of showboating. “I wasn’t bragging. When I saw I wasn’t covered, I was just happy,” he explained.

Bolt then focused on attaining a gold in the 200m. Bolt eased through the first and second rounds, jogging towards the end. At the final, he won setting a new world and Olympic record of 19.30. The feat made him the first sprinter to hold both records since the introduction of electronic timing. Furthermore, Bolt became the first sprinter to break both records at the same Olympics. Following the race, “Happy Birthday” was played over the stadium’s sound system as his 22nd birthday would begin at midnight.

Two days later, Bolt ran as the third leg in the Jamaican 4x100m relay team, increasing his gold medal total to three. Along with teammates,Nesta Carter, Michael Frater, and Asafa Powell, he broke another world and Olympic record, 37.10. In 2017, the Jamaican relay team was stripped of their gold medals when a blood sample of Carter was found positive for a banned substance.

At the 2008 Golden League, Bolt despite having the slowest start in the 100m, still crossed the finishing line in 9.83. At the Super Grand Prix final in Lausanne, Bolt ran his second-fastest 200m with a time of 19.63. At the Golden League final in Brussels, Bolt won the 100m at 9.77. Bolt was honoured by Jamaica with an Order of Distinction in recognition of his achievements.

Year 2009 and Berlin World Championships

Bolt started the season competing in the 400m in order to improve his speed, winning two races in Kingston. He took the 100 and 200 titles at the Jamaican national championships. The 2009 World Championships were held during August in Berlin, which was coincidentally the same month and venue where Jesse Owens had achieved worldwide fame 73 years earlier. In the final of the 100m Bolt set a new world record - which stands to this day - with a time of 9.58 to win his first World Championship gold. This was the largest-ever margin of improvement in the 100m world record since the beginning of electronic timing.

Bolt once again produced a world record-breaking time in the 200m. He broke his own record finishing with 19.19. He won the 200m by the largest margin in the World Championships history. Bolt pointed out that an important factor was his improved start to the races: his reaction times in 100m (0.146) and 200m (0.133) were significantly faster than those he had produced in his world record runs at the Beijing Olympics.

On the last day of the Berlin Championships, the Governing Mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, presented Bolt with a 12-foot high section of the Berlin Wall in a small ceremony, saying Bolt had shown that “one can tear down walls that had been considered as insurmountable.” The nearly three-ton segment was delivered to the Military Museum in Kingston.

2010 Diamond League and 2011 World Championships

Early on in 2010, Bolt ran the 200m in 19.56 in Kingston. He took to the international circuit with wins in East Asia and then a comfortable win in his Diamond League debut at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix. Bolt asserted himself with 100m wins in Lausanne and Paris. He went undefeated over 100m and 200m in the 2011 season.

He began with wins in Rome and Ostrava. He ran his first 200m in over a year in Oslo and his 19.86 was a world-leading one. Two further 200m wins came in Paris and Stockholm as did a 100m in Monaco.

At the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, Bolt was eliminated from the final, receiving a false start. This proved to be the highest profile disqualification for a false start since the IAAF changed the rules that previously allowed one false start per race. In the 200m, Bolt cruised to win in 19.40. This achievement made Bolt one of only two men to win consecutive 200m world titles. Bolt closed the championships with another gold in the 4x100. Nesta Carter and Michael Frater joined Bolt and Blake to set a world record time of 37.04.

Year 2012 and London Summer Olympics

Bolt won the 100m gold medal with 9.63 sec, improving upon his own Olympic record and duplicating his gold medal from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. With his 2012 win, Bolt became the first man to successfully defend an Olympic sprint title since Carl Lewis in 1988.

Bolt followed this up with a successful defence of his Olympic 200m title with a time of 19.32, followed by Blake and Warren Weir to complete a Jamaican podium sweep. With this, Bolt became the first man in history to defend both the 100m and 200m Olympic titles. He was dramatic in victory.

In the final strides of the 200m, Bolt placed his fingers on his lips, gesturing to silence his critics and after crossing the line, he completed five push-ups.

On the final day, Bolt participated in Jamaica’s 4x100m along with Nesta Carter, Michael Frater and Blake.

With a time of 36.84, they knocked their previous world record from 2011.

Bolt ended his season with wins at the 2012 IAAF Diamond League circuit; he had 200m wins in Lausanne and Zurich before closing with a 100m in Brussels, his first Diamond League title in the 100m.

2013, 2015 and 2017 World Championships

Prior to the 2013 World Championships, Bolt set world leading times in the sprints, with 9.85 for the 100m in London and 19.73 for the 200m in Paris.

Bolt regained the title as the world’s fastest man by winning the World Championships 100m in Moscow and was less challenged in the 200m final. This performance made Bolt the first man in the history of the 200m at the World Championships to win three gold medals over the distance.

Bolt won a third consecutive world relay gold medal in the 4x100m final which made him the most successful athlete in the 30-year history of the world championships. The Jamaican team, featuring the top five from the 100m final were comfortable winners with Bolt reaching the finish line on his anchor leg. After the championships, Bolt took the 100m wins at the 2013 Diamond League circuit in Zurich and Brussels.

An injury to Bolt’s hamstring in March 2014 caused him to miss nine weeks of training. Bolt competed in the 4x100m relay of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Not in peak form, Bolt said that he was attending the Games for the fans. Bolt and his teammates won the 4x100m relay in 37.58 sec – a Commonwealth Games record. In August 2014, Bolt set the indoor 100m world record in Warsaw with a time of 9.98 sec. Upon his return from injury, Bolt appeared a reduced figure and he ran only two 100m and three 200m before the major championship. He won the 200m in New York and Ostrava. Two 100m runs of 9.87 in London showed better form and he entered the World Championships to defend his sprint titles.

In the World Championships 100m, he improved through the rounds and won his semi-final in 9.96. Bolt in a narrow victory, leaned at the line to beat Gatlin 9.79 to 9.80 sec. Bolt joined Carl Lewis and Maurice Greene on a record three 100m world titles. A similar outcome followed in the 200m finals. Bolt delivered in the final with his fifth fastest run ever at 19.55. His four consecutive wins over the 200m at the World Championships was unprecedented and established him clearly as the best ever sprinter. There was also a fourth straight win in 4x100m relay.

At the 2017 World Athletics Championships, Bolt secured his last medal -a bronze in the 100m. As the anchor runner for Jamaica in the 4x100m he had a hamstring injury and collapsed on the track and opted to cross the finish line one last time and did so with the assistance of his teammates.

Rio 2016 Summer Olympics and Triple-Triple

Bolt competed sparingly in the 200m before the Olympics with a run of 19.89 sec to win at the London Grand Prix. He had four races over 100m, though only one was in Europe and his best of 9.88 sec in Kingston.

At Rio 2016, Bolt won the 100m gold medal with a time of 9.81 sec. With this win, Bolt became the first athlete to win the event three times at the Olympic Games. He followed it up with a gold medal in the 200m which also makes him the first athlete to win the 200m three times at the Olympic Games. After completing the 200m victory, Bolt celebrated in his usual style of bow-and-arrow pose and there was one more. This time around, he bowed down to kiss the track, the finish line. About kissing the finish line, he said: “I was just saying goodbye, this is my last individual event at the Olympics.” It was his last Olympics and having ruled the tracks, it was his way of saying thank you.

Bolt ran the anchor leg in the final of the 4x100m relay and secured his third consecutive and last Olympic gold medal in the event. It marked the conclusion of one of the greatest, most storied careers in Olympic history. To watch him run was to witness something superhuman. Perhaps nothing sums up his career better than his wins in his final Olympics at Rio 2016. It was his third straight sweep, earning him the “triple-triple” for three consecutive gold medals in sprinting in three straight Olympics.

(The author possesses a PhD, MPhil and double MSc; his research interests encompasses Olympic Education, IOC and Sports; he is a recipient of National and Presidential Accolades for Academic and Sports pursuits)

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