By Zaheer E. Clarke
Published on August 22, 2016
A recollection of the prophetic words spoken by Steve Cram, Paul Dickenson and Michael Johnson after Usain Bolt broke the 100m world record at the 2009 World Championships and how he has lived up to them and more.
“The world 100m final. Set! (Pop! The gun fires) They get away first time. Tyson Gay right alongside Usain Bolt. But here he goes, streaking away already. It’s Bolt all the way, he’s looking around at Gay. Watch the clock! It’s gold for Bolt! And again! He’s done it again! A new world record for Usain Bolt! They say lightning doesn’t strike twice. Can you believe it? He is flying! The world belongs to Bolt! Berlin belongs to Bolt! 9.58! Stunning! Absolutely stunning!”
“He (Bolt) writes his own history with every stride that he takes.”
– Steve Cram
Those were the words of BBC Commentator Steve Cram in 2009 when Usain St. Leo Bolt broke the 100m world record for the last time. At the time, Bolt was the newly crowned Olympic and World champion in the 100m, and in Berlin, the commentators were struggling to find adjectives and superlatives to describe Bolt’s stunning feats and accomplishments.
Cram declared, “There are adjectives which are inadequate to describe this man. He’s brilliant beyond compare. We’ve seen nothing like this. Ever! Ever!”
The man he was alluding to was a young, energetic and fun-loving 22-year-old about to turn 23 in a few days. Fast track seven years later and much of Cram’s and his fellow commentator Paul Dickenson’s words were spot on: “We’ve never seen nothing like this. Ever! Ever!”
For track and field fans, Berlin was the heights of Bolt’s godly powers: 9.58 seconds in the 100m and 19.19 seconds in the 200m, those times we have not seen since, or may never for some time.
However, just last week, we may have seen the breadth of his legendary allure when he crossed the line first – in this the third consecutive Olympics – to be crowned Olympic champion and dubbed “the fastest man in the world”.
To be honest, the latter wasn’t in question, however, the former was what was dear to Bolt and his legacy: three-time Olympic Champion in the 100m. Ever since tasting the glory adjoined with being the Olympic champion, Bolt has been on a quest to re-taste it. Eight years ago, in 2008, when he was about to adorn the gloriole that accompanied such prestige, an exuberant Bolt, way ahead of the field with shoe untied and running sideways, pounded his chest as he looked into the antsy crowd, almost awaiting their rapturous praise before crossing the line and beginning the show as Olympic champion.
Eight years on, a mature and wiser Bolt, adrift from the superhuman powers that once washed his feet, and way behind the field, this time, pounded the track with each elongated stride, looked desperately to the line, ready to embrace the eternal glory that awaited him if he crossed first. Bolt delivered once again. This his third Olympic title and the people say lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice, moreover, thrice.
Prophetically, Cram declared that night in Berlin, “he (Bolt) writes his own history with every stride that he takes.”
Last week Sunday, Rio belonged to Bolt, the world belongs to Bolt, history belonged to Bolt and we were mere spectators to his grand allure and aura. Truthfully, the fast times are behind an aging Bolt. He won the race in the slowest time he has ever run in a major Championship final, 9.80s. However, fast times and world records are secondary to this athletic god from Sherwood Content in Jamaica. Legacy is what he preaches and how he will or should be spoken of when the authors coin the final words in their chapters about his supernova-like career. Like Cram’s pronouncements seven years ago, stunning and brilliant will certainly be among the adjectives that make it into the many books that will be written.
“He’s a star beyond compare. A talent beyond compare. Frightening! Absolutely frightening”, were a few more words Cram rambled on that night in Berlin. A meandering Bolt almost drunk in his own powers walked around the track, to the joy of the astonished fans, journalists, and photographers with flashing lights, all documenting this historic performance before the world in the Colosseum of the gods. On that night, the god of the Colosseum was Bolt and the world belonged to him.
Michael Johnson, two-time Olympic Champion in the 400m and whose 200m world record Usain broke a year before that night, said, “Usain Bolt is unbelievable. We’ve never seen anything like him. I don’t know if we ever will see anything like him, ever again. It’s absolutely mindboggling what he can do.”
Usain Bolt, two Sundays ago, had many individuals sharing those sentiments Michael Johnson declared seven years ago in Berlin.
“He’s a star beyond compare. A talent beyond compare. Frightening! Absolutely frightening”
– Steve Cram
Cram said that night long ago in Berlin as the stadium rocked to Bolt’s waves, twists and turns in front of the photographers, “For Athletics, he’s a godsend.”
Dickenson, Cram’s right-hand analyst that night, said of Bolt in reference to future Olympics, “He’s still only 22 years old. So who knows? 2012? 2016? Absolutely superb.”
Cram, Johnson, and Dickenson, indeed, 2012 and 2016 were absolutely superb. A year ago, I said, “Gatlin, not Bolt, saved athletics.” I may have been wrong. With athletics singed in the mire of corruption, scandals, and doping, thankfully, the world belongs to Bolt, and for Athletics, he’s truly a godsend.
Until next time…
© Zaheer Clarke
Zaheer E. Clarke is an award-winning freelance sportswriter whose articles have been published by ESPN Cricinfo, Western Mirror, The Jamaica Observer, Trinidad Express, Essentially Sports and others.
This blog article was also published in the Western Mirror on August 22, 2016.