World Athletics Championships: Going nuts over 'bolt'
By Swaroop Swaminathan | Express News Service | Published: 04th August 2017 02:07 AM |
CHENNAI: It was 3,351 days ago on a rainy, lightning-charged New York night that the world of sprinting saw the ascension of a new king. The New York Grand Prix at the Icahn Stadium offered fans a glimpse of Tyson Gay, a likely winner of the 100m at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. But it was the man running in Lane 4, still a virgin at the event, who shocked all with a time of 9.71 seconds (corrected to 9.72). A world record in one of the most glamorous events. The legend of Usain Bolt was born.
In the nine years since then, Bolt hasn’t just won everything, he has won them by setting unbreakable records. He has pushed the 100m world record (from 9.72 to 9.58), the 200m world record (19.32 to 19.19) and played a part in breaking the 4x100m world record (37.40 to 36.84). But he wasn’t just a once-in-a-lifetime freak, blessed with incredible pace over a short distance. He was much more than that. The aura and the charisma he brought to the sport was an event in itself. He started impromptu parties and led dance moves minutes before major Olympic finals. Swag with a capital S.
The other aspect about him was his grandstanding. The general rule of thumb is that’s a no-no (think Cristiano Ronaldo revealing his abs after scoring against Atletico in the 2014 Champions League). When Bolt does it, people lap it up.
He has the panache and the arrogance to carry it off. At the pre-Worlds press conference in London, a journalist asked Bolt a simple question. “Have you contemplated a loss?” The answer, from any other athlete, would have amounted to hubris. Not for Bolt. “I can’t believe you are asking me that,” he said. “We won’t have that problem, don’t worry about it.”
Bolt is also held in such high regard because he is athletics’ Mr Clean, a Bellerophon to the Chimera that has infected the sport. Gay, Justin Gatlin and Asafa Powell have been his main rivals. All three have been tainted by their association with doping. ‘Never failed a drugs test’ is a very powerful message for an athlete to wear in these testing times. More and more sportspersons have eschewed ethics for needles and banned supplements.
There was a time when even the integrity of the Olympic moment came under fire. And that was why his battle with Gatlin in Rio assumed huge importance. It was labelled Good vs Evil. Many even assumed the Jamaican, long past his best, would finally fail to live up to expectations.
But the biggest of names stand up in the biggest of games – the end result was a victory by eight-hundreds of a second. On Friday, when he takes to the starting grid around 8.30 local time (1 am IST), Bolt will begin the final chapter in what has been an incredible career. He has run a grand total of 14 minutes and 28 seconds (14:28.83 to be exact) in individual events at Olympics and Worlds since 2004. He has won 19 gold and two silver in that time.
You would have to be a brave person to bet against him adding to that tally over the next week.