Eleven years ago, on 20 August 2008, Usain Bolt became a two-time Olympic champion in the 100m and 200m, setting two world records in the process. He achieved this feat twice, with victories for Jamaica in the 4x100m relay, bringing his total to eight gold medals, an all-time record in sprinting. Today, hopefuls are preparing themselves and queuing up to follow in his footsteps in the 100m and 200m races at Tokyo 2020.
It was the evening of Saturday 20 August 2008, and the spectators at the “Bird's Nest” were transfixed by Usain Bolt in the 200m final. Four days earlier, the Jamaican sprinter, then 21 years old, shocked the Beijing National Stadium by winning the 100m, opening his arms wide 20m from the finish line, noting that there was no one beside him, and crossing the finish line in 9.69 seconds, a new world record. He did this in front of 91,000 spectators who were on their feet, before taking a victory lap with his golden shoes in his hands, dancing and taking in the spectators' cheers.
Of course, he would also be crowned 200m champion! As he rounded the first bend, he was already on his own. He sped up and beat the old world record set by Michael Johnson at the IAAF World Championships in Seville in 1999 with a time of 19.32 seconds. He glanced at the display on the side of the running track: 19.30 seconds! He raised his arms, fell onto his back on the track, received another ovation and took another victory lap in front of the ecstatic spectators. Lightning did in fact strike twice on this tartan track. Along with Michael Phelps, who won eight gold medals in the pool, Bolt was the star of the Games of the XXIX Olympiad.
In August 2009 at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin, he won the 100m in 9.58 seconds and the 200m in 19.19 seconds, setting two world records that are yet to be beaten. He then achieved a hat trick in London in 2012 with an Olympic record for the 100m at 9.63 seconds and the 200m at 19.32 seconds, and a world record in the 4x100m relay with Yohan Blake, Michael Frater and Nesta Carter with a time of 36.84 seconds, which still sits at the top of the tables today. This hat trick was repeated again in Rio in 2016. Nobody had ever won eight Olympic gold medals in sprinting before Usain Bolt, and the same is true for the IAAF World Championships, for which he holds 11 titles! "There you go, I am the greatest. I am relieved. I am just happy, proud of myself. It's come true, the pressure is real. I look at it as an accomplishment," he said on the night of his last Games appearance. Who can argue with that?
Noah Lyles and Christian Coleman top the list
For the Tokyo 2020 Games, there are plenty of candidates ready to follow in Usain Bolt's footsteps for both races. Up-and-coming stars have begun to make a name for themselves in the run-up to the enormous challenge that lies ahead in the Japanese capital, starting with America’s Noah Lyles. At the age of 17, the sprinter from Gainesville, Florida, won the 200m at the 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympic Games and noted that this was the start of the “Noah Show”.
Also this year, 22-year-old Nigerian sprinter Divine Oduduru made a sensation for the first time in April at the American NCAA University Championships in Waco (Texas) by running both the 100m in 9.94 seconds and the 200m in 19.76 seconds within the same hour. He improved further in June in the NCAA circuit in Austin, with victories of 9.86 seconds and 19.73 seconds, the season's third-best performances in the world. Divine Oduduru made an impact in Rio in 2016 by finishing hot on the heels of his idol, Usain Bolt, in the 200m series, with a time of 20.34 seconds, before being eliminated in the semi-finals. He is hoping to do much better next year in Tokyo!