Tribute to a Legend: Usain the ‘lightning’ bolt

By U.B. Acharya

In less than five minutes of cumulative time spread over nine years, this ‘galloping leopard’ created history by winning 11 individual and eight relay gold medals in short sprints in Olympic Games and World Athletics Championships. He is currently the world record holder of 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay races and is undoubtedly the GOAT – Greatest of All Times – in the athletics world.

His name : Usain (pronounced YOO-SANE) St. Leo Bolt.

DoB : 21-08-1986.

Height : 1.95m (6’5”) and Weight: 94 kg (207 lbs).

Early Years

Born at Sherwood Content in Jamaica to parents who had a grocery store, Usain spent most of his time after school, playing. Fortunately, his school’s cricket coach noticed the speed with which he ran and advised him to switch to athletics. The rest is history.

Because he came from a poor family and could not afford to eat any junk food, he was forced to eat healthy home-made food with plenty of fruits and vegetables. He continued this good habit and this helped him remain injury-free. His high school had a history of success in athletics with past students such as Michael Green who went on to become an international athlete. This gave Bolt an added incentive to follow his footsteps.

International Junior Competitions

Taking part as a 14-year-old-boy in Caribbean regional athletics competition, Usain won silver medals in both 200m and 400m races. In 2001, as a 15-year-old, he took part in the World Youth Championship in Hungary but could not make it to the finals of the 200m race. However, he improved in the next two years to win the gold the medal at the same event in Canada.

Olympics and World Championships

Having created a World Youth Record in 200m race in CARIFTA Games, Usain Bolt was hopeful of his Olympics debut. However, his first attempt in 2004 in Athens was a disaster and he stood a distant 5th in 200m race. Later he practiced hard and entered the regional and World Championships and collected two silver medals in the 2007 Osaka World Championships.

Usain Bolt hit headlines in 2008 Beijing Olympic Games winning gold medals in three events – 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay races, all three in Olympics and World record!

Bolt continued this superlative performance with triple gold medals in the World Championships in Berlin, Germany next year. He created world records in all three events and first two stands to this day and the third one (relay race was overtaken by his team where he was one of quartets in the 2012 Olympic Games!)

Barring 100m race at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea where he was disqualified because of a false start, he won three gold medals in every Olympic Games and World Championships. By the end of 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, Usain achieved Olympic “Triple-Triple”, a rare record plus three world records.

However, in 2017, Jamaican Nestor Carter, one of the quartets of the winning gold medal relay team of 2008 Olympic Games was disqualified for doping and hence the relay team’s gold medal was withdrawn. It robbed Bolt the grand title of triple-triple and he now has a “Triple-Double” crown with 19 gold and two silver medals.

Apart from winning International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF)’s Athlete of the Year, he has won the most prestigious Laureus World Sportsman of the Year four times, a record he shares with the GOAT of tennis, Roger Federer. To immortalize him, a biopic named “I am Bolt” was made in November 2016 in UK.

Doping in Athletics

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) set up an authority called the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) in 1999 to test sportspersons for drug use.

While cycling champion Lance Armstrong, tennis superstar Maria Sharapova and sprinter Ben Johnson have been caught and punished, another great sprinter

Carl Lewis got away. Years later, he admitted to his crime but was allowed to keep his medals and records.

Final Race

In his last appearance in World Championship in 2017, Bolt came third in 100m race won by Justin Gatlin who was twice suspended for drugs and in the 4x100m relay race. Running the final quarter, Bolt tore his hamstring muscle and fell down!

Bolt is a legend par excellence. Irrespective of the time at night, I have woken up to watch those magical 9.5+ seconds live on TV. Nothing matches the thrill of watching BOLT IN FULL FLIGHT.

Now that he has retired from athletics, he has gone back to his first love. He has been appointed by Australia’s cricketers to boost their running between the wickets during their ongoing Ashes series. Also he cherishes playing club football in a European League Championships. Good luck to him.

Among the athletes shown in the table, Jesse Owens stands out. In 1935, he created three world records and tied the fourth in less than an hour in Ann Arbor, Michigan which has been called “the greatest 45 minutes in sport”. He followed this with four gold medals (100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and long jump) in 1936 Berlin Olympics. For almost 50 years he was considered “the greatest and most famous athlete in track and field history”.

Armin Hary was the first German and the second non-American to win an Olympic 100m dash in Rome (1960). The same year he clocked 10.0 seconds for the 100m race then a world record and a historic breakthrough. Valeriy Borzov was the first Russian to win the 100m gold in 1972 Munich Olympics. His running career was cut short by injuries and later entered Ukraine’s politics.

Though Carl Lewis won nine gold medals and has the distinction of repeating in 1984 Jesse Owens’s superlative performance of winning four gold medals at a single Olympics game, his claim as the greatest track and field Olympian of all times diminished as he was indulging in drugs.

The author is an Applied Geophysics post-graduate from the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad and has worked in oil industry for 37 years in Assam and Kuwait. He is now settled in Mysuru occasionally writing for Star of Mysore.