Usain Bolt: “I’ve Proven to the World I’m the Greatest”
“I’ve proven to the world I’m the greatest,” said Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt after his 200m victory on Thursday night.
If he was talking about sprinters, he’s not wrong. He’s also not wrong if he was talking about track athletes in general. He might not even be wrong if he was talking about any athlete who’s ever competed in the Olympics.
Usain Bolt proved he’s the greatest on Thursday night with another dominant race, another trademark finish, another sprint that looked too easy. With the victory he also inched closer towards a golden conclusion to a career that was one long, relentless pursuit of perfection.
In eight Olympic races, he has eight gold medals, most coming in races that weren’t even close — an impressive feat given that a 100m dash doesn’t give you a lot of room to break away from competitors. But Bolt almost always manages to break away, resulting in abnormal and unbelievable finishes where he’s sometimes two or three feet away from the second place finisher.
His 6-foot-5 frame carries him down the track with fewer steps than his competitors, his long stride propelling him forward. This longer stride requires less energy, allowing him to surge ahead, making the entire race look effortless. He’s been known to jog across the finish line, sometimes smiling, watching the stadium’s big screen, or both.
It’s this affable nature, the ease with which he runs, and the smiles that gave him fans the world over, but also his fair share of detractors. But what is often confused for arrogance is actually an enlightened understanding of his role as entertainer and sportsman rather than just an athlete out to finish races or check off accomplishments. One gets the sense that Usain Bolt enjoys the reactions he gets from anyone that watches, his competitors included. His jovial nature and humorous approach to the sport and surrounding media coverage reveals a sense of inner joy, not self-worship, narcissism, or arrogance.
But Bolt’s work is not done. Announcing he will retire after the 2017 World Championship, Bolt will go for his ninth Olympic gold medal tonight in the 4x100m relay. If he and his teammates are successful, Bolt will have as many track and field medals as American sprinter Carl Lewis and Finnish distance runner Paavo Nurmi.
If history is any indicator, Bolt and his sprinting compatriots will most likely win this race, with Bolt running the final leg and finishing well ahead of any competitor. Just like he has through most of his storied Olympic career.
Michael Sapenoff is a writer and artist in Kansas City. Follow him @MikeSapenoff