With an unprecedented 3rd consecutive Olympic gold medal in the men’s 100m, Usain Bolt has cemented his claim as the most dominant athlete, ever, in any sport.
Bolt overcame huge obstacles to win: his own injury-plagued season (he tore a hamstring in June and had competed hardly at all coming into Rio); his nemesis Justin Gatlin of the US; and, maybe most daunting, the crushing pressure of expectations riding on his shoulders.
Since 2008, Bolt has been the face of his country, his sport, and arguably of the entire Olympic edifice. He became the world’s fastest man at the Beijing games and doubled down in London 2012. Now, almost 30, often injured, even Bolt himself must have occasionally wondered if he had the stuff to win once again.
Or maybe he didn’t. Olympic champions aren’t big on self-doubt, and there has never been an Olympic champion quite like the 6’5″ Jamaican. The world knows the story: Along with the three 100m golds have come three 200m golds, and three more golds in the 4x100m relay. He has set and broken his own world records at both distances (the 9.58 WR he ran at the 2009 world championships seems miles out of reach for anyone in the sport these days, Bolt himself included).
Gatlin, forever the bad guy to Bolt’s hero, has neither the charisma nor the talent of the world’s fastest human. But he deserves the highest credit – for battling back from two doping suspensions (one undeserved), and for becoming, at 34 years of age, the oldest man ever to medal in the Olympic 100m. He, like Bolt, will be gone by the Tokyo Games in 2020.
The future of men’s sprinting for now is in the hands of Andre de Grasse, Trayvon Bromell, Ben Youssef Meite, and others under 25 years old. But – no disrespect to the young stars – none will challenge Bolt’s mastery of the sport.
Athletics fans lucky enough to have watched the track over the last decade have seen something that may never be seen again – the complete dominance of Usain Bolt.