WRITTEN BY CHARLES ODUGBESAN
I finished work the other day and on the train home I picked up a Metro – enclosed was a build up to the World Athletics Championships and, of course, a segment dedicated especially to Usain Bolt. One particular part of the segment I read was truly mind boggling:
‘Of the 30 fastest times for 100m, only nine have been run by an athlete who was not banned for drugs – all of those nine by Bolt.’
Without wading through the endless gold medals and World and Olympic accolades, this particular quote spoke to me for two huge reasons.
Unfortunately, the first reason for its significance is due to the problems that Athletics as a sport has suffered with a string of drug scandals and doping offences. The prominence of drugs in the sport not only lowers its popularity and validity, but it makes us as fans (let alone those who have no interest in the sport) question the honesty of practically every successful athlete we have seen. Countless great moments in sprinting history that were given to us by the likes of Ben Johnson, Marion Jones, Dwain Chambers, Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell etc were tarnished as it was later revealed that they were performing with the use of banned substances. Seriously, imagine being the poor bastard who finished second, or even fourth and later finding out that the winner or somebody who denied you of a medal position had cheated you out of an medal you’ve worked your whole life for! Usain Bolt since arriving on the scene has brought a refreshing honesty to the sport and has earned all of his achievements having never failed a single drugs test. Every race he wins and every medal he collects legitimises the sport that little bit more and in doing so he becomes the perfect role model for young kids who want to get into athletics; even if the 100 and 200 metre sprints aren’t your forte.
The second reason is this: as I mentioned before I don’t really need to list all the 100, 200 and relay successes that Bolt has enjoyed, but the fact that this is a man who boasts the nine fastest ever LEGITIMATE 100 metre times in history is an unbelievable feat in itself.
The next man in the records books used to be my favourite sprinter before Bolt – Maurice Greene. I would describe him as the Bolt before Bolt. A showman in his own right, a five time World Champion and a dominant speed demon who registered 51 sub-10 second runs in his career; the fastest of those being the 9.79 world record that he set in 1999. All of those records, even his art of showmanship, were usurped and taken to impossible new heights by Bolt. You’d be hard pressed to find a record that Bolt doesn’t have. He truly is the undisputed sprint king.
So the stage was set last night for Bolt to go out in a blaze of glory and retire from Athletics as an 8 time World Champion. He couldn’t do it. And there couldn’t have been a less popular winner. A ring of boos met Justin Gatlin as he crossed the finished line first in 9.92 seconds. Despite his reputation and his past, fair play to him… he won fair and square on the night. And though we all sat down and expected to see Bolt cruise to another World Title, this loss takes nothing away from what a transcendent figure he has been for the sport. The term GOAT gets tossed about faaaaar too often these days (honestly you should see our 14HQ group chat… GOAT this GOAT that) but it is a fitting description for this man. Usain St Leo Bolt is the greatest sprinter of all time. Happy Retirement King!!!