Bolt, Usain


Bolt, Usain
▪ 2009

born Aug. 21, 1986, Montego Bay, Jam.

      Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, a track and field barrier breaker since his mid-teens, smashed records as never before in 2008. At the Olympic Games in Beijing, Bolt became the first man since American Carl Lewis in 1984 to win the 100-m, 200-m, and 4 × 100-m relay in a single Olympics and the first ever to set world records (9.69 sec, 19.30 sec, and 37.10 sec, respectively) in all three as he did so. His 0.66-sec winning margin in the 200-m was the largest in Olympic history, and his 0.20-sec edge over the second-place finisher in the 100-m, despite beginning his victory celebration about 80 m into the race, was the largest since Lewis won by the same margin.

      The performances of the 1.96-m (6-ft 5-in), 88-kg (194-lb) Jamaican, nicknamed “Lightning Bolt,” stunned many casual followers of the sport. Seasoned observers, however, harkened back to the world junior championships of 2002, when Bolt first marked himself as a prodigy. In that meet, racing before a crowd of 36,000 in Jamaica's National Stadium in Kingston, Bolt, just 15 at the time, won gold in the 200 m, becoming the youngest-ever male world junior champion in any event. At 16 Bolt cut the junior (age 19 and under) world record to 20.13 sec. In April 2004 a 19.93-sec clocking made Bolt, at 17, the first teen to break 20 seconds for 200 m.

      Bolt, the son of grocers in Jamaica's rural Trewlany parish, excelled as a cricket fast bowler in his preteen years. He developed a deep affection for the European association football (soccer) teams Real Madrid and Manchester United, but his school coaches steered him toward track and field. He was fond of practical jokes, fast food, and nightclubbing, however, and often failed to match his record-setting résumé with equivalent dedication to training. Hampered by a hamstring injury, he failed to advance beyond the 200-m heats at the 2004 Athens Olympics and placed last in the 2005 world championships final.

      In 2007 Bolt appeared newly serious and earned a silver medal in the 200 m at the world championships. He also persuaded his coach to let him try the 100 m and ran 10.03 sec in his first professional race at the distance. In 2008 he defied conventional wisdom that very tall sprinters are disadvantaged as fast starters and on May 3 lowered his best time to 9.76 sec, then history's second fastest mark. Four weeks later in New York City, Bolt broke the world record, running 9.72 sec to defeat world champion Tyson Gay and provoke media speculation that multiple Olympic golds might lie in his future, as subsequent events in Beijing confirmed.

Sieg Lindstrom

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Universalium. 2010.

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