RJR Sports Awards Nominee | Unmatched Usain
RJR Sports Foundation National Sportsman of the Year nominee Usain Bolt made history again in 2016 with a dominating sprint double at the Olympic Games. The 30 year-old Trelawny native parlayed times of 9.81 seconds and 19.78 seconds into gold medal performances in the 100 and 200 metres respectively. As ever, those times were his fastest in an undefeated season.
It was not, however, all smooth sailing for the 6 foot 5 superstar. He eschewed his usual Gibson-McCook Relay cameo appearance in February and stepped on track for the first time in the season at the Cayman Invitational in May. He won the 100 metre there in 10.05 seconds, and went on to run 9.98 seconds in chilly Ostrava. Then, at the inaugural Racers Grand Prix early in June, he conjured up a magical run. After an early stumble, he steadied himself, smoothly accelerated past a world class field before easing off and dropping his arm as he crossed the finish line. The time of 9.88 seconds was astounding given all that had happened in the course of those 100 metres.
Then came trouble. He strained a hamstring at the National Senior Championships, skipped the 100 metre final, and sprinted by air straight for treatment. Thankfully, when he reappeared on track in London, he ran comfortably to a winning time of 19.89 seconds over 200 metres.
"Especially at the start of last year I noticed that injuries take a little bit more time to get back to where you want to be," Bolt said at the time.
"My coach always tells me that the older you get it's going to get harder," he recalled. "You have to push yourself."
Maurice Wilson, head coach of Jamaica's Olympic track and field team, has high praise for Bolt and his coach of more than a decade, Glen Mills who continues to work around injuries and Bolt's busy off track schedule.
"His coach understands how to get him to perform." He elaborated. "For this athlete to know that maybe he is unable to put in that work from October to thinking about January February; in terms of base work and sometimes he has to use his courage to get him ready for major championships, to step out with that sort of confidence."
Bolt exuded his usual confidence in Rio and reached a major milestone in the 100 metres final. The win, over American Justin Gatlin, was his third in a row and ended a tie he shared with 1984 and 1988 champion Carl Lewis, the only other man to win Olympic gold in this event twice.
His Rio winner ran his total of times under 10 seconds for the 100 metres to 49. Only Jamaican speed machine Asafa Powell and Maurice Greene have battered the old barrier more.
With the task of retaining the 100 metres title done, Bolt smiled his way to a semi-final win in the 200 metres clocked at 19.78 seconds. Few noticed that it was his fastest semi-final time ever but a rain splashed track held him back and allowed him merely to match that time in the final. Bolt was already the only man in Olympic history to win the 200 metres more than once, with his wins in 2008 and 2012. This third triumph makes it even harder for anyone else to catch up.
Only Bolt himself, fellow winners Michael Johnson and Joe DeLoach, along with silver medal winners Yohan Blake and Frank Fredericks have ever run faster than 19.78 seconds in the Olympics.
Wilson watched with interest.
"I don't want to compare him with Jordan, because they are totally different," he began. As he mentally accounted for Bolt's 13 individual World Championships and Olympic gold medals, Wilson declared, "We have never seen any athlete who would have been able to get himself ready for the big moments like Usain Bolt."
The Olympic head coach feels that Bolt's oncoming retirement will leave a void.
"When this man decides to leave the sport, because, in my opinion, we have failed to understand what he has done, the vacuum is going to be so great that it's going to take a lot time for us to digest it."
Wilson isn't the only one with that view. 2010 Commonwealth 200 champion Cydonie Mothersill of the Cayman Islands feels the same. Speaking in Jamaica in June, she said, "He's one of a kind."
"I don't think there'll be another Usain Bolt for some time to come so we should enjoy it now," she advised.
In the meantime, Usain Bolt has composed another season filled with unique achievements. Short and sweet, it has earned him another chance to be named National Sportsman of the Year.
The RJR Sports Foundation National Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year Awards will take place this Friday at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel.