In between polishing my teeth the other day, my dentist, who knows I’m involved in covering sports, blurted out the following:
“I’m from Bolt’s hometown, Sherwood Content,” she beamed.
“He is beloved there. He’s done so much for the school kids all over Jamaica.”
As I rinsed out and prepared for her to work on the uppers, I thought to myself what a fitting testament it was to the biggest star in track and field, arguably in all of sport, as he makes ready for his final performance in London at the world championships.
Usain Bolt is beloved everywhere. And why shouldn’t he be?
After all, Bolt has created a career which has provoked almost total admiration. He is the most gregarious, awe-inspiring and dominating runner in the history of athletics.
He is recognizable to a vast majority of people all over the world because he is the fastest human being to have ever run.
Even his last name is synonymous with speed.
“He is huge in our sport,” says Canadian hurdler and team co-captain Phylicia George from a training base in Spain before heading to London for the championships. “There aren’t many characters that have the power to transcend the sport, but he’s one of them. Hopefully there will be more coming along soon.”
The sun king
Bolt’s accomplishments and records are not the point here. It’s more important to consider what they mean as a body of work and the sporting artist who conceived of them.
He is unquestionably track and field’s leader of the band and has been for almost a decade.
Having been at the Bird’s Nest in Beijing in 2008 when the giant-sized Jamaican won his first Olympic gold medal in the 100 metres in a stupefying world-record time and touched off a frenzy of adulation, I can attest to his magnetic attraction.
Bolt is like the sun. He causes people to gather in his energy and light.
“What Bolt has been able to do, and how, leaves all of us in awe,” says world champion hurdler Perdita Felicien, who is covering the championships trackside in London.
“I don’t particularly subscribe to the idea that Bolt makes athletics look better to those who think the sport is full of cheats. Sure, some may raise an eyebrow at his dominance, but he is…