Usain Bolt bewitched the Olympic Stadium as he became the first man to achieve a “double double,” successfully defending both the 100m and 200m titles at the London 2012 Games – but the world’s fastest man admits he may relinquish his crown at Rio in 2016.
Arguably the most gifted athlete in Olympic history, the Jamaican sprint king sealed his status as a global phenomenon at Beijing in 2008, winning three gold track medals and smashing three world records. A year later he slashed his time for the 100m to an incredible 9.58secs – the fastest time since the introduction of fully automatic time measurements.
At the age of 14 Bolt, now 26, broke on to the athletics scene, graduating from regional meets and national competitions in his home country to starring in Caribbean athletics events.
But the 1,95 m runner – also a promising high jumper and cricket player in his youth – took his first steps on the path to Olympic greatness when he won his first medal at high school, a bronze in the 80m hurdles.
Two years later he made his name on the world stage at the IAAF World Junior Track and Field championships in Kingston, Jamaica, when he won the hosts their only gold medal with a 20.61s run in the 200m – a time he lowered in 2004 to set a new World Junior Record.
The following three years saw him dogged by injuries, but he returned to form in 2007, breaking Donald Quarrie’s long-standing Jamaican 200m record at the country’s Senior Track and Field meet.
But it was 2008 that saw Bolt rewrite the history books. The Jamaican broke the 100m World Record in New York – something he has now achieved a phenomenal three times, along with two global bests in the 200m – before taking his first Olympic sprint double, confounding doubters who said inexperience would count against him at the Beijing Games.
Bolt – by now the most famous athlete in the world – arrived in London for the 2012 Games on the back of Achilles tendon problems and having been upstaged by his countryman Yohan Blake at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.
Second place finishes in the 100m and 200m in the Jamaican trials prior to the Games led to speculation that his best days were behind him. But come August 5 in the Olympic stadium it became clear that Bolt was determined to reaffirm his status as the king of sprinters. After taking 100m gold with an Olympic Record time of 9.68s –leaving Blake snapping at his heels in silver-medal position – four days later he became 200m champion and declared himself a “legend.”
He said: “I have been saying this for the last three years, that I want to become a legend, and I've done it. Now I’m going to sit back and relax and see what I'm going to do.”
Though not everyone agreed with this assessment, Bolt’s part in Jamaica’s 4x100m relay win on the final day of London 2012 suggested his claim might be true. However, only by the time the Rio Games are over will the world know if he was right all along – and Yohan Blake may have something to say about that.