We all knew he was ‘alright’, a bit nuts, liked his chicken nuggets but he could run a bit, so he got away with it. He ripped up the history books thrice in Beijing, taking 100m, 200m and the 4x100m gold medals and records simultaneously for both personal and national glory. The whispers before London 2012 were that he’d lost it, he’d grown over-confident in training and there was a new kid on the block, in the form of training partner Yohan Blake. Of course, come last Sunday night, he proved the world wrong, cruising to the 100m title. Surprised slightly, said the doubters, but Blake’s real form was to show in his dominant 200m, where the main man struggled. So they said anyway. Of course, last night, the doubters were again proven wrong. Crossing the line cooly jogging and with a finger to his lips, Usain Bolt proved one thing: he can run rather fast.
In all honesty, it was never in doubt either. Both races had an air of inevitability surrounding them. Don’t get me wrong, Blake certainly had a chance, and pushed Bolt the most he has ever been recently challenged, but it wasn’t enough to stop his training partner, who Bolt concedes works ‘harder than me’. Both coasted through the heats and semi’s of both the 100 and 200 metres, entertaining the crowd and billions watching at home with pre and post race antics to the camera, coolness personified.
The one stunningly consistent thing about Usain Bolt is that everyone likes him. He conducts himself in such a manner it is very difficult not too. Whether it is his trademark ‘lightning bolt’ celebration, his calm, cool, fun-loving attitude toward track running or just how he has, again in his words ‘become a legend’.
Not many other sportsmen or women, after running an Olympic final, would be able to perform press-ups, take photos after cheekily pinching a member of the press’ camera and give out high-fives to whoever in the audience fancied it. But Bolt does. Of course, he revels in the spotlight of the world, playing up for the cameras, giving the world lots to talk about, but then, someone has to, and if it is going to be one of the true sporting greats of all-time, I’d take that over some Z-list, ‘Made in Essex’ wannabe (yes that was deliberate!). Some mistake his confidence as arrogance, hanging on to anything they can regard as a fault, but you look at many of these athletes at the Olympics, especially the runners. They give the camera a stare or a menacing glare pre-race, then produce nothing. Bolt gives us a grin and a dance if we’re lucky, and blitz’ the chasing pack. Confidence is a major part of the ‘perfect athlete’, if they don’t believe in themselves then they’ve got no chance!
Sure, London saw no new world records, perhaps the only thing Bolt didn’t manage to produce that he said he would, but he helped promote the 2012 motto of ‘Inspire a Generation’ to the max. Kids everywhere will have been captivated by Bolt, not only ‘cos he can run dead fast’, but because of his playful antics. Even my little cousins know of him! With each success, he becomes better and better known, but rarely do you see him promoting a money-spinning product. Infact, the only time I can remember seeing him outside of his sporting domain, is when he has been guest of honour at his favourite club, Manchester United. Recently too, he has stated a desire of having a trial at United, god knows what he could realistically do next!
The prospect of Bolt’s 6th Olympic gold medal tonight, is a strong one, defending three titles successively is a crazy achievement, and a first. He and Blake will team up, an unstoppable pairing, or so you’d think, a race to hand Blake his first Olympic gold, perhaps the first of many.
Yes, for all of Bolt’s dominance, the lifespan of sprinter, is not long. Sure he could compete for years and many Games to come, but will he want to? He’s the sort of man, that won’t want to, and financially certainly won’t need to, compete when he’s not the best. And with such an able athlete as Blake trailing in his wake, who knows if this is the last truly great performance we are seeing from Bolt. When Rio 2016 comes about, he’ll be 29/30, not undoable, but many things could happen between now and then anyway, he could be long gone from the sport!
For now, we should enjoy Usain Bolt whilst he is still around, we’ll have years ahead to savour the history we’ve all witnessed, but why not live it now. Below is a little interview after the 100m final, Bolt’s coolness and confidence shines through, whilst Blake is almost a ‘Mini-Me’, and also the fastest talker you’ll ever hear!