Wed | Aug 16, 2017

The Bolt supremacy - Sprint king's dominant career at the National Stadium

Published:Monday | June 12, 2017 | 6:00 AMHubert Lawrence
Usain Bolt looks to the crowd after his final race on Jamaican soil at the JN Racers Grand Prix at the National Stadium on Saturday.

If the National Stadium is renamed the Usain Bolt Stadium, the author of the change wouldn't be far wrong. That's because Bolt, a star worldwide, has reserved some of his best performances for that 55-year-old edifice. Buoyed by an apparent need to entertain his countrymen, the tall man from Trelawny has produced a glittering catalogue of speed-based thrills at home.

Every Bolt fan probably has his or her own favourite. A sea of gold-clad Jamaicans jammed the National Stadium for the 2002 IAAF World Junior Championships, and Bolt gave them a piece of history by winning the 200m a month before his 16th birthday. That victory turned out to be the start of a great international career.

No one who was there will ever forget that moment.

There was more to come. In 2003, running for William Knibb Memorial High School at the ISSA Boys and Girls' Championships, he dazzled fans with a Class 1 200/400 double with record times of 20.25 and 45.35 seconds, respectively. Understandably, they chanted his name.

The 200 record still stands and the 400 mark was so good that it lasted for more than a decade.

Bolt turned professional early and lowered the world junior 200m record to 19.93 seconds at the 2004 Carifta Games in Bermuda. He overcame injuries and the adjustments to life as a professional in time for the 2007 season. At the National Senior Championship, he scythed around the turn and ran strongly to the finish in the Jamaican record time of 19.75 seconds. The holder of the former record, 1976 Olympic champion Donald Quarrie, came down from the Stadium grandstand to congratulate Bolt.

It was a figurative passing of the baton of sprint greatness.

 

NEVER LOOKED BACK

 

Bolt never looked back. At the 2008 Jamaica Invitational, he came within 0.02 of the world 100m record held by compatriot Asafa Powell at 9.74 seconds. Bolt's time of 9.76 is still the fastest time ever on local soil. Even now, only the US pair Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin and the Jamaicans trio of Yohan Blake, Powell, and Bolt himself have quicker times anywhere.

This nation of sprint experts knew that they had a world beater on their hands. They were right. Soon, Bolt had the world records at both 100 and 200m and Olympic gold and the World Championship titles for each of those events.

The year 2010 brought two of his best-ever performances at home. In February at the Gibson Relays, he chased a lost cause in the 4x400m. His refusal to lose brought his Racers Track Club team from fifth to second place and showed his untapped 400m potential with a 44.2 second anchor leg. In May, at the Invitational, he dusted a good field of 200m sprinters in 19.56 seconds.

The only men to run faster are Blake, the Americans Michael Johnson and Walter Dix, and Bolt himself.

It was speed for the joy of running fast in front of a packed National Stadium audience. The runner-up, Wallace Spearmon, clocked 19.98 seconds. That's a fine time for 200m, but the American was marooned well back.

 

MEMORABLE ACT

 

Once again, that is the fastest ever run in Jamaica. It was as if he had performed the final rites on the Mondo track laid in 2002, for the World Junior Championships.

His last memorable act of speed at the National Stadium came last year at the inaugural Racers Grand Prix. A good start was dissolved by an early stumble, but Bolt recovered and surged past four world-class sprinters. Remarkably, he had enough to spare that he eased off the accelerator and dropped his arms before the finish, which he reached in 9.88 seconds.

That's far off his Stadium record of 9.76 seconds, but it was achieved in a manner that oozed speed.

Intrinsically, the 19.56 on the old pink Mondo track is probably the best performance of this Bolt portfolio, but pure 100m fans are likely to vote for the 9.76. Whatever your pick, you probably love all of Bolt's speedy performances at the National Stadium. Once you were there for any of them, he made you marvel.