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Report: London Olympic Games 2012

'Living legend' Usain bolts into Olympic history

Reuters/Eddie Keogh
Text by: Paul Myers in London
6 min

A towering, ultra-musculed athlete surged his way into legend on a balmy Thursday evening in east London. When the occasion to embrace sporting immortality approached, Usain St Leo Bolt displayed a lion’s heart and grasped the glory.

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Making Olympic history

The 26 year-old from Trelawny in Jamaica collected the 200 metres title in 19.32 seconds and became the first man in Olympic history to win back-to-back sprint doubles.

Carl Lewis nearly did it 24 years ago but he fell short in the 200 metres.

Bolt eclipsed the running great in front of 80,000 people in the Olympic Stadium and hundreds of millions watching on TV worldwide.

His training partners at the Racers Track Club in Kingston, Yohan Blake and Warren Weir, took silver and bronze respectively.

As he crossed the finish line, Bolt put his left hand to his lips.

He said it was a defiant gesture to those who said he could not fulfil his dream of successive doubles:

“I think people were doubting me," Bolt said. "After Yohan beat me in the Jamaican trials people were doubting me, but for me that was good because now I know who are my true fans, the people who will always support you throughout. So for me, it was great to go out there and show the world and show my true fans that I am the best.”

Even if he’d lost the 200 meters, it would have taken a remarkably brave curmudgeon to paint Bolt as a failure. Ultimately, two doubles demands worship, especially if the protagonist begins to restyle himself as ‘a living legend’.

Ironically it was Blake, the man who would be king, who has probably provided the myth. By conquering Bolt during the Jamaican national championships, which serve as the Olympic trials, he prematurely stole the emperor’s clothes. So forewarned, Bolt was properly armed come the big stage in London:

“For me to be here with these guys is great,” he said, while turning to his training partners at a press conference after his victory. “We push each other hard and to the limit. Yohan Blake gave me a wake-up call at the trials, so I give thanks for that. For Warren, he works hard and it’s his first Olympics, so to get a bronze medal is great and he’s a great athlete.”

Feeling the love

The love is utterly mutual. Weir, just 22 and a relative unknown, praised Bolt for his advice and encouragement and Blake, whom Bolt has nicknamed ‘the Beast' for his voracious attitude to training, is no less unswerving in his devotion.

“Usain has encouraged me a lot," said Blake, who is also 22. "The race was great. I came off the turn, saw the big man in front of me and I said, ‘okay, he’s got away.’ So I say, ‘alright I just have to hold my place, it’s his time.’ Usain has been working hard on and off the track. I think he has been a good guy, he has been motivating us.

“It’s his moment, you have to enjoy it. You know, he took over from Asafa Powell and I think I’m going to take over from Usain and somebody is going to take over from me. I hope he enjoys every moment. He deserves every moment of it. He’s good, he’s great. We have a wonderful chemistry.”

London Olympic Games 2012

Then looking at the man sitting next to him, the Beast said meekly, “I’m happy to be here with you, you know, I can’t complain.”

It was a heartfelt moment and quite rare. Kim Collins, the veteran sprinter from St Kitts and St Nevis, has said that two male crabs can’t live in the same hole.

 It’s an intriguing analogy, but the signs are there that the alpha crustacean may be about to bolt.

“Both of these guys are 22,” said champion Bolt. “At the Rio Olympics, they’re going to be 26 and I’m going to be 30. Both of these guys are running extremely well right now and I think I have had my time. I can’t say if I will run in Rio but it’s going to be a hard reach because there’s going to be a lot more talent coming up and these guys have stepped up already. I’m not looking that far. I’ve made myself a legend and I’m just going to enjoy it right now.”

And revel in his wonderfulness he should. On 5 August, Bolt retained his 100 metres crown, beating Blake into second and Justin Gaitlin from the United States into third.

The Jamaican secret

If there aren’t already secret squads of food scientists scouring Jamaica for insights into the cuisine that speeds its sons and daughters, then rival Olympic associations will soon be sending out fleets of commissions.

In Beijing, Shelley Ann Fraser from Jamaica won the 100 meters gold. Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart, also from Jamaica, finished in a dead heat to both take silver.

Four years later in the 100 metres, Fraser retained her title and her compatriot Veronica Campbell-Brown was third.

Bolt, joined by Blake and Weir on the podium, is likely to send a shiver down the spine of the Americans who had - until the rise of Bolt - jostled for the sprint titles with athletes from the Soviet bloc.

Those days now seems as distant as the Cold War itself.

While cycles are the essence of sporting dominance, success does breed success. The British rider Sir Chris Hoy spoke eloquently about how the whole concept of the plucky British loser was being overturned by the Games.

“There are youngsters who’ve come into the GB team since 2004, who have never known anything else other than success,” said the 36 year-old after clinching his seventh medal since Sydney 2000.

Team GB has astounded the home Olympics with a record haul of more than 50 medals. Half of those have been gold. Hoy contributed two golds to the 2012 kitty.

Hoy’s last ditch win in the men’s keirin in the Velodrome was a fitting way to wheel away from his own Olympic odyssey.

Leaving a legacy

Bolt may well be deciding his own future, but if he were to quit he would leave an impressive and intimidating legacy.

Four sprint finals: four golds. That brilliance and the accompanying charisma have enmeshed Beijing and London in his personal web. In a discipline that brooks no munificence, he is the most hearty of competitors as if the transience of renown can be subverted by being not only part of the play for today but also of tomorrow.

“I think by the time I get to 30 I’ll be thinking of retirement,” said Bolt. “Because track and field is way too hard. It’s rough day in, day out and as you can see Yohan Blake is running 9.7 in 100 metres and has a personal best of 19.2 for the 200 metres. So, in the next four years he’s going to be firing. I think I’d like to get out early before he starts running too fast.”

True hallmarks of a champion: self-actualizing, proud, generous and, most of all, ahead of the field.

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