Usain Bolt: Greatest of all Time


An Editorial from The Stabroek News. Our thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing it to our attention.

The world is fast running out of superlatives to describe the exploits of its fastest runner, Usain Bolt. But following his victories in the 100 metres and 200metres, at the IAAF World Champion-ships in Beijing on Sunday and yesterday respectively, one accolade should suffice: Greatest of all Time.

This title, made famous by none other than the peerless, three-time world heavyweight boxing champion, Muhammad Ali, now deservedly and easily sits on the shoulders of the magnificent Mr Bolt. His record is unprecedented in track and field history: he is the first man to win six Olympic gold medals in the 100m, 200m and the 4x100m relay, becoming the first sprinter to achieve a ‘double double’ by winning the 100m and 200m titles at consecutive Olympics (2008 and 2012) and, indeed, the first to achieve a ‘double triple’ in the Olympics, by also winning gold in the 4×100m relays; he now has 10 World Championship gold medals, including ‘double triples’ in 2009 and 2013 and a ‘double double’ now, with the 4×100m to come, two golds in 2011 in the 200m and the relay, after being disqualified for false-starting in the 100m final, not to mention two silvers from the 2007 World Championships; for good measure, he is also the world record holder in all three sprint events. And he is not yet finished with the sport.

In cricket, they like to say that form is temporary but class is permanent. Going into the Beijing World Championships, there were all sorts of concerns over Mr Bolt’s form and fitness, and doubts about his readiness for the much anticipated head-to-head clashes with the American, Justin Gatlin. In a 2015 season marred by injury and apparent sluggishness, the extraordinary Jamaican, who turned 29 last Friday, had hitherto looked merely ordinary and, indeed, vulnerable.

Mr Gatlin, on the other hand, was in the form of his life. So much so that retired Trinidadian sprint ace, the garrulous Ato Boldon, was moved to predict on Saturday night: “Gatlin is so head and shoulders above anyone else in this field in terms of execution, fitness and readiness that I find it almost comical that it’s being billed as a big showdown. Gatlin is going to put on a clinic, and everyone who makes that 100 final is invited.” Mr Boldon, to his credit, afterwards acknowledged Mr Bolt’s supremacy.

That Mr Gatlin is a two-time drugs cheat and that sections of the media had portrayed the contest with the charismatic Jamaican as a morality play of good versus evil made the duel all the more mouth-watering and the outcome all the more critical for a sport bedevilled by allegations of doping and swamped in cynicism. This aspect of the clash might have been somewhat overhyped, though, with Mr Bolt himself making it clear before the World Championships that it was not his responsibility to save the sport but rather to focus on competing.

It might have been forgotten by many, amidst the hype, that in the build-up to the London 2012 Olympics, Mr Bolt was not mentally and physically where he wanted to be. A similar situation existed this time around. Once again, as in London, paced to peak physical and mental form by his coach Glen Mills, the champion showed his class, performing when it mattered most, when the pressure was greatest.

The Jamaican phenomenon’s dramatic win in last Sunday’s 100m final silenced the doubters, dispatched Mr Gatlin’s challenge and sealed his status as the greatest sprinter of all time. The emphatic win in the 200m, simply underlined this. Another gold in tomorrow’s 4×100m relay would just be the icing on the cake.

As the English commentator Peter Matthews put it yesterday, after the 200m final, Usain Bolt is “a supreme athlete and a supreme ambassador for his sport and for his country.” Without taking anything away from the accomplishments of the sensational Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and the other world-class Caribbean athletes in Beijing, for a region desperately short of role models and heroes, we might add that, with his awesome talent, competitive instincts, winning ways, playful showmanship and respect for his sport and his fans, Usain Bolt is a supreme champion of the Caribbean people and the Caribbean spirit.

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