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Bolting to the Finish: Usain’s legacy

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The lineup for the Men’s 100 meter final at the 2009 World Championship in Athletics is, as always, impressive. Running today, on the 16th of August, are Dwain Chambers of Great Britain, Marc Burns from Trinidad and Tobago, Daniel Bailey of Antigua and Barbuda, Usain Bolt, already world record holder, Tyson Gay, the defending champion, Jamaican Asafa Powell, Darvis Patton for the USA, and Richard Thompson for Trinidad and Tobago.

Crouching at the starting line, hands on the electric blue track’s synthetic surface, the eight fastest men in the world await the starting pistol’s shot. A tinny voice on the loudspeakers announces “SET”, and all the legs straighten as one. A few seconds later, they all take off with the urgency of hunting felines, as the crowds echo the pistol’s shot, resonating in the vast stadium. Followed by Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell, both struggling, Usain Bolt strides to victory yet again with his characteristic ease. A slight, almost imperceptible, duck of the head and chest and Usain Bolt crosses the finish line, a mere 9.58 seconds after the first step. The “Lightning Bolt” has surpassed himself yet again, and in doing so, has surpassed the rest of the human race.

However, there is a man behind all this. Behind the fame, the glory, the riches, and the gold, there is an athlete who has trained all his life to achieve these goals. The new documentary “I am Bolt”, directed by Gabe and Benjamin Turner, aims to reveal this man. Delving into his personal life, career and past, viewers will be treated to an overview of what makes the fastest man alive who he is today.

Usain St Leo Bolt was born in Sherwood Content, Jamaica, on the 21st of August 1986, to Jennifer and Wellesley Bolt, two grocery store owners. He spent most of his days playing cricket and football and became his school’s fastest 100 metre runner by the age of twelve. He participated in his first world event at the 2001 IAAF World Youth Championships in Hungary. Competing in the 200 meter sprint, he did not qualify for the finals. His first meeting with fame was instead at the 2002 World Junior Championships back home in Kingston, Jamaica, where he won the 200m. Thanks to this victory, he became the youngest world junior gold-medallist ever.

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Thus started a series of medals, wins and world records that continues on to this day. His first record-breaking time was 9.72 seconds for 100 meters at the Reebok Grand Prix in New York, on the 31st of May 2008. At the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, Bolt improved on his own 100 meter world-record with a time of 9.69 seconds. He also won gold at the very same Olympics for the 200 meter race, where he broke the world record with 19.30 seconds, and the 4×100 meter relay which he and the rest of the Jamaican team won with another record-breaking time of 37.10 seconds. He beat his 100 meter world record a third time at the 2009 World Championship in Athletics in Berlin, and won six more gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, sealing his status as the ultimate sprinter in history just as he leaves the Olympics behind, with the first so-called “triple-triple”: a gold medal in 100m, 200m, and 4x100m sprint, in three Olympiads in a row.

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Usain Bolt has inspired millions of athletes around the globe with his nonchalant charm and apparent ease on the track. Junior Fields, sprint coach at Kent Athletic Club in Catford, London, says he finds Bolt to be a “great personality for athletics, an amazing sprinter” and that it “was strange how well he did in the Beijing Olympics without ever being able to replicate it”. Nevertheless, he remains in Mr. Fields’ eyes a “great athlete” and a “great ambassador for the sport”. “Athletics have been going downhill for a few years now, it’s good to have a person such as Bolt who is totally clean, or at least has never been caught with drugs”.

Younger sprinters also find Usain Bolt’s personality inspiring. Tom Freijsen is an IB student in the Netherlands who participated in inter-school competitions in Dubai and Addis Ababa. He believes that Bolt is “an incredible name not only for sprinting but the whole sport world too”. “One needs to respect all the awards he has won in his field. It also shows the world that even though you may not be as privileged as others during your childhood, it is still possible to reach the top through hard work”. Mr. Freijsen also explains that he is not “able to think of someone else who would better fill this role because everyone looks up to [Bolt]… he is a complete role model to the younger generations. It is something that I think he fully deserves.”

Emma Watkins, member of the Serpentine Running Club, agrees that Usain Bolt is a “fantastic role model” because he’s “a fantastic sprinter, but he’s also quite an inspirational person himself, his character is very approachable, very welcoming”. “He’s done a lot to publicise the sport in a really positive way and I think we could take a little bit from him in his attitude.”

Usain Bolt has dazzled the world for over 10 years, and will surely be remembered as the greatest sprinter of all time. His announcement that Rio 2016 would be his last Olympic Games caused much sorrow, but he leaves the Olympic world with a 100% win record in finals, and the certainty that his name will long be remembered in the annals of sporting history.

“I am Bolt” came out on the 28th of November 2016 and will be reviewed at a later date.

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