Usain Bolt- Fastest, greatest
Usain Bolt of Jamaica poses barefoot on the track next to his shoes after winning the men's 4x100 metres relay final during the IAAF World Athletics Championships at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow. (REUTERS)
About a fortnight before the World Championships in Moscow, Jamaican Asafa Powell and the US's Tyson Gay — men who had registered two of three fastest 100 metre times ever — had tested positive for banned substances. A day later, Powell's compatriot, Yohan Blake, the reigning world champion, withdrew from the event due to a hamstring injury. Just a week before the Worlds began, a leading biomechanic made news by announcing that Usain Bolt's 100m time of 9.58 seconds, which made him the fastest person ever, had been a freak occurrence. A number of factors had played a part in it, including age. So the chances of the now 26-year-old dictating terms to the rest of his field were slim. Another piece de resistance by the athlete seemed out of the question.
Yet this was what he had done in some of the greatest arenas — the Olympics and the Worlds. The artistes who had ushered in running's age of glory had faded. Jamaica — rocked by a doping scandal that had netted high-profile names — was not the "running cradle" it once used to be. The sport's renaissance was over.
Until Bolt, totally unaffected by the rot surrounding him, set ablaze the Moscow Worlds by breezing his way to three gold medals, one in each of the three events (100m, 200m and 4x100m) that he participated in. Against this troubled backdrop, Bolt's show of dominance — which helped him match the eight gold won by Michael Johnson and Carl Lewis respectively at the Worlds — assured him a place among the greats. Indeed, he is the greatest of all time.
Bestowing the title of greatest of all time (GOAT) has always been a tricky matter for pundits. Don't compare persons from different eras, some say. If that is done, Bolt comes up short on carats. He is still just as good as the athletes at the Worlds, not better, and is three gold medals short of being the most successful track athlete at the Olympics (both Lewis and Paavo Nurmi have nine). But if statistics were everything, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, with 38,387 career points in the NBA, would be the undisputed GOAT of basketball. Michael Jordan who?