Usain Bolt called time on his incredible career last month and it is fascinating to see how the achivements of one individual has captured the sport.
One of the most notable things about Bolt’s career is just how much he is admired by the sporting public. When Justin Gatlin was announced as the winner in the 100m finals on the big screen, a hostile reception greeted him with a deafening sound of ‘boos’. Simply put, this happened because Bolt did not win. The hero of athletics was racing for the last time in the 100m and his moment to leave on a high was ruined. Perhaps the hostility of the boos was also because Gatlin was labelled a cheat as he was found guilty of doping twice in his professional career. However, the fans, from all over the world, wanted their hero Usain Bolt to win and it shows us just how much the world got behind him. Everybody wanted tickets to the 100m finals because Bolt would be racing, despite the fact that the race would only last ten seconds. What is it about this man that captures the attention of the world?
Bolt was brought up on the small island of Jamaica and first came onto the radar of Jamaican Athletics at the IAAF World U20 Championships in 2002, which just happened to be hosted in Kingston. At the championships, Usain Bolt won the 200m race at a time of 20.61s. He was the first ever world champion at the age of just 15 and in doing so, he became the youngest ever world junior champion. Bolt is still the only 15-year-old champion and the rarity of becoming a junior world champion at that age highlights just how special this achievement was and marked the potential that Bolt had.
Early in Bolt’s career, he was predominantly a 200m runner and following his junior world champion title, he went on to compete in the 200m at Athens 2004, as a 17-year old. Unfortunately, the Jamaican was not fully fit and was eliminated after the first heat. As he grew older, people were expecting him to progress to the 400m and there was serious talk about Bolt as being the successor to the great Michael Johnson. There was a general consensus that he was too tall for the 100m and it wouldn’t suit him very well, so the natural expectation was for him to tackle the 400m. However, Bolt’s agent Ricky Simms stated that Usain was not fond of training for the 400m and instead he would keep asking questions about running the 100m. Eventually, in 2007, Bolt’s coach allowed him to compete in the 100m and in what I think was his first competitive attempt at the 100m, he ran 10.03s and won the race. This 10.03s is probably the most critical race time ever recorded in athletics because it gave Bolt confidence at the 100m and kickstarted his career as a sprinter. He was able to devote his full training to short sprinting and that attitude is probably what helped him achieve his gold medals.
WINNING AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL
Bolt was beginning to become noticed during 2007 and at the World Championships that year, Bolt came runner-up to Tyson Gay in the 200m. Bolt said that during that race he was doing everything in his power to run faster, but his fastest just wasn’t good enough to beat Gay. Bolt’s coach identified the issue as being his training; it was effectively part-time training and the words of his coach inspired Bolt to work even harder to become the best. The consequences of his training were seen just only a year later.