He is a unique athlete, a remarkable character and a sporting icon who has long been established as one of the greatest sprinters to have ever taken to the track. In the 100m, 200m and 4x100mUsain Bolt has won all that there is to win, broken all the records that there are to break. No one would begrudge the 28 year-old Jamaican if he took his foot off the pedal or even if he decided to hang up the spikes altogether and bask in the glory of his achievements. Yet that’s not how champions work. Bolt wants more.
The world of sport is always waiting intently on his next move and they were not left disappointed after Bolt’s latest pronouncement. The man who has won five individual Olympic and World sprint titles holds the world records for the 100m and 200m at 9.58 and 19.19 seconds respectively, both won at the 2009 World Championships. Yet, displaying the sublime confidence that comes from being such an extraordinary athlete, Bolt firmly believes that he can lower both. There are still targets for an athlete who has already achieved so much – the yearning for more success, to keep improving and to realise more goals is as strong as ever. In particular, the desire to be the first ever man to break the 19 seconds barrier for the 200m.
Despite all the medals Bolt has yet to improve on the astonishing times he set five years ago. It is this, along with some of the injuries he has recently started to acquire, that have caused some to doubt whether he actually has it in him to smash those records again. Yet to write him off would be truly ridiculous. If there is one man who could currently break these records again it is Bolt, the first man to hold both the 100 and 200 metre world records since fully automatic time measurements became mandatory in 1977.
It is two years since he was last on the brink when he came just 5 tenths of a second short in the 100m at the London Olympics. Similarly it was also at those famous Games that he last came closest to breaking his own 200m record with a time of 19.32. Does this two and a half year hiatus suggest that his recent claims are just fanciful thinking? Or does it actually show that when the pieces come together, especially on the biggest of stages, he is still more than capable of pushing those world records close again? The latter seems the more obvious answer.
Indeed Bolt himself has announced that, ‘If I can get a perfect season where I'm working well, without any injuries, with no time off, I'll definitely have the chance to break the world records.’ It has to be acknowledged that Bolt has had a disruptive time recently, with his 2014 year being hampered by foot and hamstring injuries – he actually only competed in three races. His season came to an early close not long after his role in Jamaica’s victorious 4x100m team at the Commonwealth Games. A fully fit and flying Bolt in form and with the momentum behind him can get close to reaching the astronomical new standards he has set himself. It isn’t all just flamboyance and theatre – Bolt knows his body and his capabilities more than anyone else. His decision to finish his season early to get fully fit for 2015 could be one of the wisest decisions of his career, leaving him fresh and ready to mount a sustained attack upon the new season.
If 2014 wasn’t quite the success story we’ve become so accustomed to with Bolt due to injury, you only have to look to 2013 to understand what happens when he really gets going. He won three Gold medals at the World Championships, thus becoming one of the most successful athletes in the 30-year history of the event. He was also named the IAAF World Male Athlete of the Year for the fifth time in six years. There are threats that will test him more than ever before next year, such as fellow countryman Yohan Blake and the newly invigorated (and highly controversial) American Justin Gatlin. Yet they, like the entire athletics world, know that Bolt is still the godfather of men’s sprinting. It could take a world record just to beat Bolt at his best.
It has been floated that Bolt, the first man to achieve the ‘double double’ by winning the 100m and 200m titles at consecutive Olympics, could focus purely on the 200m. Sacrificing the 100m and putting all of his training into the 200m could be the key to getting close to that 19 second mark. Bolt actually has more victories in the longer event, winning numerous crowns at youth, junior and senior levels. He won his third consecutive World Championship Gold in the event last year in Moscow.
The first man to win six Olympic gold medals in sprinting will also know that the next Olympic Games in 2016 in Rio could provide the most fitting of grand finales for the most wonderful of careers. Although retirement is a long way off, the 2020 Games in Tokyo will come too late for Bolt. He will want to go out on the ultimate high, not slowly step away from the track after the others have finally caught up. Thus the next two years are vital with those Games looming – every race, every competition and every training session. Combine his unbelievable ability with these major targets and you have a recipe for fireworks.
He has a habit of leaving the world of sport in awe but can Bolt smash the perceived limits of human speed yet again? It would take a brave person to bet against him.