In the Wake of the News
9:12 PM CDT, August 9, 2012
LONDON — Moments after providing track and field's enduring snapshot of the 2012 Olympics, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt grabbed a news photographer's camera in the middle of his victory lap.
The same lens had just been trained on Bolt as he became the first man to repeat as an Olympic gold medalist in the 100- and 200-meter runs. But now it was Bolt's turn to document sweet memories. Hamming it up, Bolt took pictures as teammate Yohan Blake, the silver medalist, posed. He pointed and clicked into the adoring crowd of 80,000.
This was a night for everybody's scrapbook.
"I am now a living legend,'' Bolt said. "Bask in my glory."
On an ideal night at Olympic Stadium for posterity, Bolt left his competitors little choice in a one-sided race he won in 19.32 — .13 seconds off his world record. With about 50 meters left, Bolt held such a commanding lead he eased up when he felt his back tighten. With less than 10 meters to go, he slowed down and raised a finger to his lips across the finish line.
"That was for all the people doubting me,'' Bolt said. "Everybody can say what they want to say. I am the greatest. I have done something no athlete has ever done.''
Carl Lewis didn't. Jesse Owens couldn't (World War II canceled the 1940 Olympics preventing Owens' chances to do so). Bolt did, giving the world its transcendent Olympics moment and his sport a truly legendary figure.
This was rarer than a bolt of lightning striking twice. This was something that never had happened.
It was unforgettable, mon.
Bolt has made triple-double part of the Olympic track lexicon. Rio 2016?
"I hope so,'' Bolt said. "I will be (almost) 30. But it's a team effort so we'll see.''
Jamaica'steam finished 1-2-3 with Warren Weir taking bronze behind Bolt and Blake. Rum. Reggae. Sprinters. Does any country produce any of those better than Jamaica?
"Four years ago I was in high school watching him and for him to do this again is not easy,'' Blake said. "He is the god of track.''
From the second Bolt walked onto the track, he was worshiped like one.
Flashbulbs began going off like it was the Super Bowl kickoff when Bolt entered the stadium. The public-address announcer interrupted his commentary on the triple-jump until the rousing applause created by the mere sight of Bolt stopped.
Track's most prolific athlete doubles as its most charismatic, so naturally Bolt played to the crowd. He hugged Blake and imitated Queen Elizabeth II with her patented wave when introduced. He shushed the crowd before the race started the same way he would ending it.
When the easy win was over, Bolt dropped for several push-ups because a friend suggested it would look cool on TV. He wore the Jamaican flag as a scarf and struck his signature pose, entertaining the audience with personality that makes him as great a showman as he is a sportsman. As only the greatest ones can.
"For me I cannot say I if am the status of Ali or Michael Jordan,'' Bolt said. "I'm guessing I am in that category but I will let people decide.''
Understandably, the public also will debate the legitimacy of Bolt's achievements in a sporting era plagued by doping scandals. Suspicion sits on the tips of skeptics' tongues. One reporter, for example, slipped asking Bolt a legitimate question whether Jamaica sprinters were drug-free by starting, "The Jamaican drug team ... ''
"Without a doubt, we are (drug-free),'' Bolt said.
That didn't annoy Bolt as much as being reminded about Lewis continuing to drop hints about doping. In a rant, an upset Bolt said, "Carl Lewis, I have no respect for him.''
"It's really annoying when people on the sidelines say stupid stuff,'' Bolt added. "I think he just wants attention.''
The issue merits it, but fairly. London celebrating the 2012 Olympic domination of Bolt resembles America getting caught up in the 1998 home-run race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. What makes this feel slightly different is that Bolt passed every test at the 2008 Beijing Olympics — most significantly the test of time.
Nothing would surprise me. But four years later, my first reaction to Bolt's historic double ended comfortably with an exclamation point more than a question mark.
"We are trying our best to show the world that we are clean,'' Bolt said.
His mood lightened when asked to explain Twitter photos with Swedish handball players and to describe his perfect woman to marry. The perfect runner kidded he was in no rush.
He only hurries for history.
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