With the end of 2017 Athletics season, we see the career end of the sport’s greatest all time sprinter. Usain Bolt took the 100m and 200m to a level none expected at the time. He energized, amazed, stimulated and surprised many along the way of his legendary championship performances.
The 2008 100m finish stands out in my mind to this day. The 2009 season was his zenith in terms of the record standard he set. After 2011 it seems to me that Bolt began to perform at the level just enough to win. Some say it was injury issues, some say too much partying and not enough serious thought on his athletic life, while others say it was a combination of them all.
In 2012, Yohan Blake beat Bolt at the Jamaica Olympics trial in the sprint double. Bolt came back and returned the favour by winning the 100m in an Olympic record time and equaled the 200 record, while becoming the only Olympic double repeater.
In 2015, Justin Gatlin of the USA was running 9.7’s throughout the season, as if it were being given away. Again Bolt rose to the occasion at the world championships and eked out a 100m victory over the less than composed Gatlin while comfortable winning the 200m with Gatlin running second.
At the 2016 Olympics, Bolt was more prepared and easily won the 100m & 200m races to extend his double Olympic champion performance to three Olympics in a row.
The 2017 world championships saw Bolt’s first loss in a championship event since 2007. The loss is exactly ten years later and at the end of his athletic career. This loss was surprising to some and not so to others. It seems Bolt’s habit of doing enough to win did not work so well for him this time. The weird thing about this loss is that the 2017 year is the slowest in terms of time we have seen for over a decade. 9.9’s was the constant for the season. One would assume this would be a cake walk for Bolt based off his illustrious career consistency, performing at levels above his competitors in championships.
All of his records have been set in championship finals after rounds. Yet this time around he could not muster the magic. The slowness of the race was not a factor of the track or climatic condition because no one was dazzling us with fast times all season. To the surprise of some, the unbeatable Bolt was no more. Some blame it on injury, but he has been injury prone for a while. Some say he missed time from training to mourn the loss of his friend. It can be viewed as noble but I wonder if he would have done this when he was more motivated with Tyson Gay and a fast Asafa Powell breathing down his back.
Some may disagree, but I think Bolt has lost the motivation he had in his earlier years. He has accomplished what none has done before. He should be a wealthy man with years ahead of him and moving on is ok with me. People of my generation, younger and older who have seen his performances will spend the rest of their lives in awe, some with envy and others with both awe and envy of his accomplishments.
I believe Bolt has earned the right to walk away with a bronze and an intact legacy. He won’t be able to please everyone because of the standard he set and the level of expectation they have of him. It is ok. The legend of Bolt will be what people remember most and not the idea that he could have accomplished more. Thanks for the Joy you bring to the world, Usain Bolt the living legend.