It has been an epic two weeks in the world of sport, with a string of Olympic champions bringing home the goods for Team GB to the delighted cheers of millions of sports fans across the country. Despite our utter brilliance during Britain’s most successful games since 1908, and the nations shock on Super Saturday as we swiped three gold medals in the athletics stadium, it was Sunday nights 100 metre men’s final, with not one British finalist that had me really excited.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Bolt became the first man in Olympic history to win both the 100m and 200m races in world record times. Four years down the line however, during the build up to the 2012 London Olympics there were rumors that Bolt was not on form and his reputation was to be put to the test by fellow Jamaicans Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell along with Americans Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin. Speculation that one of these powerful athletes could well topple Bolt from his pedestal was rife.
I found Colin Jackson’s reaction to the hugely anticipated final, almost as entertaining as the actual race itself: “Here he comes, here he comes, the big man, the big man, the big man” he shouted to fellow Olympic champions turned BBC pundits Denise Lewis and Michael Johnson. Excitement and anxiety filled the previously hushed commentator’s area after months of speculation about who was going to walk away with that coveted gold medal. This was the race we had all been waiting for.
An astonishing 9.63 seconds after the klaxon sounded all doubt had been abolished as Bolt hurtled over the finish line sealing the 25 year old’s “Lightning Bolt” status as the fastest man on earth.
Yohan Blake may have been unbeaten all year and regarded as the favourite by many experts, but Bolt, was always the man for the big occasion, he always saves his best for when it matters most, much to the delight of the 80,000-strong crowd at the Olympic Stadium, who rose to their feet in unison as he crossed the line. It seems that Bolt’s popularity transcends race, nationality and culture.
What pleased me most was to see how much this triumph meant to Bolt. Despite what many describe as cockiness due to comments made to the press in the past, this race was all about proving his critics wrong, he let his running do the talking and within seconds the skeptics were silenced. The young athletes elation during his post race interview was palpable, “People can talk, all they can do is talk, but when it comes to championships it is all about business for me and I brought it, it was really great to show people that I’m still the number one, I’m still the best”.
Many consider comments like these arrogant but I don’t think that could be further from the truth. I see it is as confidence which is very, very different. Arrogance requires advertising. Confidence speaks for itself. I think grounded could be a better term used to describe Bolt. Many criticise his celebration technique at the end of a race but it seems completely appropriate in context. If you just did something better than anyone else in the world, ever, don’t you think a little excitement and celebration would be justified? When he lost at the national championships, he buckled down, worked harder, and proved last night how he came back stronger and faster – sounds pretty grounded to me. He doesn’t say derogatory things about his opponents or talk about how badly he’s going to beat them, he’s confident in his ability and continuously proves why.
It’s been four days since Bolt’s performance blew away all competition (fellow Jamaican and training partner Blake took silver, while the controversial American Gatlin took bronze) and left London awestruck. Whilst reclaiming his Olympic title, Bolt’s time was recorded as the second fastest ever – the fastest of course, already belongs to him. As the 200m finals loom this evening, Bolt is favourite to run away with the gold medal again. Will he set a new Olympic or World Record for this race? We’ll have to wait and see. The “big man” has already signed, sealed and delivered but the world is waiting with bailted breath for him to do it yet again.