New Delhi: "I’m ready," he said. "If I show up at the championships you know I’m fully confident and ready to go" – these were the words uttered by the 'Sprint King' when he addressed a room full of media persons on Tuesday at London. Not that one had guessed it so far...but it rushed through the minds, all of a sudden just like his 'lightning Bolt' speed as to what the fans and the world of athletics would miss out. Is it his flicker-of-an-eye speed or his unique celebration style, the one with the arrow or is it his immense confidence that glows in his eyes each time he prepares himself for the race? Well, all these little things matter as Usain Bolt gears up for the one final race, at the 2017 IAAF World Championships.
“9.69!” exclaimed the commentator as Beijing stood in absolute amazement to see the new ‘king of sprint’ race away towards his gold. The stadium swayed in black and yellow and the spectators chanted his name — “BOLT! BOLT!” Usain Bolt didn't just clinch his first Olympic gold medal, back then in 2008 Beijing Olympics, but he had edged past his fellow countrymen Asafa Powell by just, just 0.05 seconds, to be named the 'fastest sprinter on earth'. And thus began a new era in the world of athletics.
But that’s not how things ended at the Beijing National Stadium. Bolt’s next aim was to emulate Carl Lewis' Olympic double of a 100m and a 200m gold. Michael Johnson, the 200m expert, who had set the record of 19.32 seconds back in the Atlanta Olympics 1996 was confident about Bolt's victory, but also reckoned that his record would still be intact. "My, oh my! The then 21-year-old lad shattered down in what was termed as the 'unbreakable' to clock 19.30 seconds. Two days later, Bolt clinched his third gold by winning the 4x 100m relay with the Jamaican quartet, thereby finishing with an Olympic treble in his maiden attempt at the largest arena.
How many of us actually watched a 100 metre sprint before 2008? Very few...isn't it? None actually made athletics look so entertaining, so enthralling, so astounding. Confidence in his eyes, the way he loosens himself up right before the race, as if he has already won the race, just the name remaining to be etched in the medal. Also his rightful bragging about winning each time he would compete in an event. And of course his 'Lightning Bolt' celebration style. Fans just love it...and he loves it too.
Then came the 2009 IAAF World Championships. Berlin was the venue and Bolt was the name that echoed through Germany. The Jamaican-born athlete had a new competitor, America's Tyson Gay. 'Bolt's 100 m record was within his grasp' – was what Gay commented, but Bolt shrugged it off. The 6ft 5" tall athlete, with his long strides and confident approached smashed his own records at the World Championships. 100m clocked at 9.58 seconds and 200m at 19.19 seconds. His victory in the 200m race came by the biggest margin ever. He ended the Berlin event with a treble again, 4x100m gold being the last one.
But all wasn't a bed of roses for the Jamaican. In 2010, Gay got the better off Usain Bolt in the 100m race at the Stockholm Diamond League. It was their third head-to-head battle and Gay eventually came out superior. "I told you I’m not unbeatable," said Bolt after the 100m loss, but the humble American had come forth to say, "I’m happy with the victory, but still looking forward to when Usain and Asafa (Powell) will be in 9.6 shape to race with them."
He revived himself back in 2011 and was all set for the Daegu World Championships, but it turned out to be a shocker for the then 24-year-old. He received a false start and was thus eliminated from the 100m final as a fuming Bolt walked out of the racing track. "Looking for tears? Not going to happen," said Bolt, when asked about the incident. "Enough to run the 200 meters?" asked the journalist instantly and a sanguine Bolt answered, "You'll see on Friday." And boy did he show. He clocked 19.40 seconds in the 200m and ergo, bid adieu to Daegu with two golds, the other coming from the relay race.
Then came the Olympics, again. It was 2012 London. This was where he had started his journey. There were newer sprinters on the track, the world had changed, but not their expectations and neither did the results. Lightning Bolt once again struck the Olympic arena as the tall Jamaican raced away with three gold medals yet again. "I'm now a legend. I'm also the greatest athlete to live," he said after his 100m and 200m victory.
He continued with his sprinting prowess clinching victories in the Moscow and then Beijing World Championships to finally find himself in Brazil's capital city, Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics. He was 29 then, age had caught up. Yes, at 29, trying to clock well below 10... kind of difficult for a sprinter. He eased way into the finals, but analysts reckoned that Bolt barely had the chance of completing another treble again. "I want to be among greats Muhammad Ali and Pelé," that is how confident he was. And the Jamaican defied all odds to script history at London.
Not only did he become the first athlete to win three consecutive 100m and 200m gold at Olympics, but became the first ever to complete in what was termed as an 'Olympic treble treble'. Age plays no boundaries when it comes to strong determination and hardwork – and Bolt is an epitome of it.
His sluggish start, his long strides, all add up to make the race so enthralling, so amazing, one can barely take the eyes off him. And that is exactly what the World of Athletics would miss. Speculations are that South Africa's Wayde van Neikerk is the rightful person to replace him, or probably Canada's Andre De Grasse, but Bolt will remain Bolt as he heads back to London for his final race. Millions would be glued to their TV sets when the "fastest person on earth" would race for one last time on the athletics track.