There has been some talk leading into the 2012 London Olympics, and even throughout the tournament, about the legendary status of sprint king, Usain Bolt. He captivated the just concluded Olympic games, winning three gold medals in impressive form, very much similar to the rich run of form that carried him to glory at the 2008 games in Beijing. But the question many are asking even more loudly is if Usain Bolt is now a living legend?
Bolt himself declared after winning the 200 metres race; I'm now a living legend, I'm also the greatest athlete to live.
Well in such a debate, the evidence surely is what will speak loudest for the matter to be resolved.
Sprint sensation, Bolt, captured gold in the 100 and 200 metres, becoming the first athlete to repeat victory in both these events. He went on further Saturday evening to bring home the Jamaican 4X100 relay team, in impressive style, as they set a new word record with a capacity crowd baring witness to the greatness of the Jamaican athletes, once again on display.
Recently, International Olympic Committee President, Jacques Rogge had to retract on a statement he had made earlier during the Olympics that questioned Bolt's legendary status. Rogge had previously stated that Usain needed to prove his greatness over time before claiming to be a "living legend."
However his retraction was very public and forthcoming when he stated during the final stages of the 2012 Olympics, "Let me finalise this issue as follows: To say that Usain Bolt is an active performance legend, he is an icon, he is the best sprinter of all time."
Last week the jealous ranting of former Olympic sprint champion, Carl Lewis, awkwardly placed him at the centre of a backlash for his insinuations about Bolt's drug free status based on him being from an island with drug testing standards allegedly not as robust as the United States. Carl's statements to the media perhaps gave us a deeper insight into the machoism of the American sprinting fraternity in refusing to accept that there are new sprint kings in town who are clean, train hard and are proud of what they do.
But, is Usain Bolt now a living legend having won again in the manner he did in Beijing, a repeat of his three gold medals? He may not have set a new world record in the 100 metres but surely, to come into the race with the weight of expectations and questions that hung over him, must have been an insurmountable amount of pressure to withstand and yet claim gold. Him losing to Yohan Blake in the Jamaican Olympic Trials made global headlines and leading up to the 100 meters race, many thought that it was Blake's time to shine. Alas, it was not yet to be so. What was inspiring about Bolt, was to see him being pushed all the way, and his response was telling, by him forging ahead of the chasing pack.
What about Bolt's repeat of the 200 metres victory? The effort expended by him made it seem all so ordinary, but anyone who may have had the pleasure (or displeasure0 of having to train for competitive track events will know that to compete in two such highly intensive races is no feat for wary souls, much less tired and unpracticed leg muscles.
Are Bolt's victories therefore the accomplishments of a man we can say is now a living legend, or is he just one of the great sprint kings who is dominant in this, his era?
Speaking during an interview at the just concluded games Bolt declared; Now I am going to sit back, relax and think about what's next. I don't know what I really want to do after this, whether to run the 100 or 200 or try something else. I need to find a new goal that's going to motivate me to great things."
He further went on to say; But I am not ready to retire. I love this sport. The rest of the season I am just going to have fun because I did what I came here to do.
His pleasure at winning for sure cannot be mistaken. Thus, I think it goes beyond Bolt dominating in his era, for certain. There is much more to the man and his achievements than simply getting on the track and running as fast as he can.
The mechanics of running a 100 meter sprint do not equate with his lanky frame as we have heard the sprint analysts tell us repeatedly. The speed at which he runs is mind boggling. Additionally, he was not competing against a field of sprint novices. Bolt was on as big a stage as they come, and many of those athletes on the starting blocks genuinely felt they stood a chance a beating him.
Besides his impressive victories, Bolt's legendary status is cushioned by the mark of respectability that he singularly has brought back to sprint competitions globally. These sprint competitions in the 100 & 200 metre races have been marred for years with revelations of drug use that have turned a once adoring public away from these events. Bolt, through his athletic genius has breathed new life into the sprint competitions at the Olympics, and for this, along with his solid performances to once again yield him three gold medals, should help cement his legendary status in the world of athletics.
Or do we have to wait until the Rio games in 2016 to attach 'Legend' next to the name of Usain Bolt?
As Bolt himself asked after his team's victory in the 4X100 relay; "Next time you see Rogge (IOC President) I think you need to ask him what Usain needs to do that no human man has ever done."
I think you said it well Usain. Congratulations on a wonderful 2012 Olympic games.
Jeevan Robinson is Founder & Editor-in-Chief of MNI Alive, the Caribbean's global marketing, news & information (MNI) media house.