In the run-up to the 2016 Rio Games, no single man has made more news than the Jamaican super-sprinter Usain Bolt. The Jamaican’s best time of his career came in a space of one year between Beijing Olympics in August 2008 and World Championships in Berlin in August 2009. In Beijing, Bolt broke the world and Olympic records in 100m, 200m and 4×100 relay with his teammates. One year later in Berlin’s World Championships, Bolt made massive improvements in those two sprint records and since then, no one has come even remotely closer to Bolt’s time in 100m and 200m. For the new world record in 4×100, Bolt waited until the 2012 London Olympics and the Jamaican team’s time of 36.84 seconds in 4×100 relay remains unmatched even today. With three gold medals each at Beijing and London, it is now time for Bolt to complete the haul of 9 Olympic gold medals at Rio. Already a legend in his lifetime, Bolt’s arrival at Rio de Janeiro airport, six days ago, became a big event by itself. The media tracked him boarding the plane at London and when he landed in the Brazilian capital, cameras and microphones were ready.
Usain Bolt is the phenomenon. He is already in Rio for the keenly awaited triple-triple. Already the winner in 100m, 200m and 4×100 relay in the last two Olympics in Beijing and London, Bolt is in Rio for three more gold medals in these events. The track-and-field action begins on August 12 and Bolt will swing into action on August 13 with the heats. Late on August 14, 100m semifinals will be concluded and the last athletic event of the day could see Bolt in the final of the 100m sprint. On the night of August 18, Bolt is expected to be seen in the 200m final and 24 hours later; he should be running with his teammates in the men’s final of the 4×100 relay. There is little likelihood of Bolt not reaching the finals of the three coveted events, where he holds the world and Olympic records. And if he wins in these events, he couldn’t have earned a more precious gift on his birthday that coincides with the last day of the 2016 Rio Games on August 21, 2016.
Bolt broke the world and Olympic records at Beijing in the three events of his choice. He ran 100m in 9.69 second, 200m in 19.30 seconds and 4×100 in 37.10 seconds. In the World Championships at Berlin one year later, he broke his own world marks in 100 and 200 meters by clocking an unprecedented 9.58 and 19.19 seconds in 100 and 200m respectively and doing 4×100 in 37.31 seconds. In the London Games in 2012, he couldn’t improve on his 100 & 200m world records but did the 4x100m in an amazing team time of 36.84 seconds for a seemingly unbreakable world record. In Rio, Bolt is determined to break new ground before he hangs his boots after a celebrated career in athletics.
Only three weeks ago, there were rumors of Bolt skipping the Rio Games because of a tear in his hamstring muscle. He couldn’t participate in the Jamaican Olympic trials and appealed to his country’s Olympic management for exemption. The Jamaican Olympics authorities acceded to his request and Bolt arrived in Rio to be welcomed by the media and his fans even if it was midnight in Rio. The media guys were there in hordes and while Bolt didn’t mind being photographed, he couldn’t agree for any interviews. A few days later, Bolt took time off his Olympic training schedule and visited a favela near Rio to meet some underprivileged children. The athletic super-hero spent some time with the kids and posed for photographs. The big man has done the same in April last year, when he even played basketball with the locals. This time, he didn’t have such liberty because of his training schedule. Since his arrival in Rio, Bolt has been staying in a modest hotel near the airport and has no plans to see anyone until August 8, when he is expected to participate in an event organized for the Jamaican delegation.
For the last few years, USA’s Justin Gatlin has been the only man, who is closest to Bolt in 100 and 200m competitions. Gatlin won the 100m gold in 2004 Athens Olympics but served two doping bans in subsequent years. And despite the media hype about the Rio battle being a battle between Bolt and Gatlin, Bolt has beaten Gatlin comprehensively in both 100 and 200m events at the 2015 Beijing World Championships. Bolt admits that Gatlin is good but thinks it is hard for the American to beat him at Rio.