“I asked her what’s wrong?” Bolt said after another golden night for the Jamaican sprint king. “She said, ‘I’m nervous.’ Ha-ha.”
On the night he became the first man to win 100- and 200-meter gold medals in consecutive Olympics, Bolt was asked whether he was more important to Jamaica than Bob Marley (“I’m up there, mon, but Bob Marley was g-g-great legend for Jamaica.”), when he wants to try out for Manchester United (“soon”) and whether, if he had not yet been born, he would rather be Carl Lewis or Jesse Owens. (“Definitely Jesse Owens. He didn’t lose a race for years.”)
He had said the double-gold in the sprint events after Beijing would make him a legend, and indeed it has. But Bolt deserved another title Thursday night as he flailed his arms and churned his legs around Olympic Stadium:
He goes down as not merely the most captivating athlete of the London Games, but maybe of all time.
“Do you put yourself in category with Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan and Pele now?”
Bolt: “Can’t say if I’m the status of Michael or Ali.” But, “them being the greatest in their sports, and me being the greatest in mine, I’m guessing I’m in that category. But I’ll leave it up to you.”
Good. He’s in that category. He will go down as the man who saved the drug-addled sport of track and field almost by himself. Because his personality was almost as big as his talent, he connected to those who watched him. It was impossible to root against him.
Everybody loves Usain. Especially Usain.
“I’m now a legend, I’m also the greatest athlete to live,” he said after his 19.32 seconds in the 200, his fourth individual sprint gold medal in two straight Olympics, surpassed anything Lewis or any other great American flyer had done at the Games.
Of course, when a man who defies physiological boundaries of speed and time accelerates around a turn now, it’s almost impossible to look at the replay in wonder before the first “Is He The Greatest Ever?” is blurted out.
Greatest Olympian. Sprinter. Athlete. Whatever. Even Thursday night, Bolt’s last individual performance for at least four years on the world’s grandest stage, the urgent need to quantify, compare and dissect almost outweighed the raw exhilaration he drew out of 80,000 spectators. That the 200 meters was run on the same night the lost discipline of the decathlon was waged almost didn’t seem fair to U.S. gold medalist and world record holder Ashton Eaton.
“Ashton is the best athlete to ever walk the planet,” said Trey Hardee, the U.S. silver medalist in the event. “Because the title bestowed upon the Olympic champion in the decathlon has always been world’s greatest athlete.”
“Gustav,” added Eaton, smiling. Yes, Gustav.