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  Rio 2016: Usain Bolt, people’s champion

Rio 2016: Usain Bolt, people’s champion

AFP
Published : Aug 21, 2016, 12:54 am IST
Updated : Aug 21, 2016, 12:54 am IST

Usain Bolt (left) crosses the finish line to give Jamaica the men’s 4x100 metres relay gold at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on Friday. (Photo: AFP)

Usain Bolt (left) crosses the finish line to give Jamaica the men’s 4x100 metres relay gold at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on Friday. (Photo: AFP)

The Olympics is going to miss the Lightning Bolt pose that has lit up the last three Games at a time when athletics desperately needs a hero.

When Usain Bolt crosses the finish line and starts pounding his chest, it resonates with the public around the world.

But after his 4x100m triumph in Rio on Friday, the Rio crowd celebrated in the knowledge that they were witnessing the departure of a legend.

From his first 100m Olympic gold in Beijing, when the Jamaican astonished the world with his 9.69sec time, Usain St Leo Bolt has been the real star.

On top of his record-equalling nine athletics gold medals, Bolt, who will be 30 on Sunday, is confident, relaxed and supremely connected with the crowds he attracts wherever he goes.

His mother seems to think that the young Bolt, who will retire after next year’s world championships, was born to run.

Born in Trelawny parish near Montego Bay — where a host of sprinters including the shamed Ben Johnson also come from — Bolt was something special from the start, according to Jennifer Bolt.

By the age of 12, Bolt was the fastest in his school. “He was always on top,” she said.

A school cricket coach urged him to try track and field and his talent gradually grew, though as in his races his progression was not always fast out of the blocks.

But at the age of 15 he was already 1.96 metres (6ft 5in) and at the world junior championships in 2002 he won the 200m. He is one of just a handful of athletes to have won world titles at junior, youth and senior levels.

Bolt set his first 100m world record (9.72sec) in May 2008 in New York. The Jamaican then stormed the Beijing Olympics with his first 100m, 200m, relay treble. The world was forced to take notice of his chest-beating. His 9.58 record at the world championships in Berlin in 2009 was an even bigger sensation.

With each major win he has deflected attention away from bad news for track and field.

In Beijing it was the doping controversy surrounding women’s sprint star Marion Jones and her boyfriend Tim Montgomery. Gatlin was unable to defend his title as he was a doping ban. Other rivals have also been tainted and fallen by the wayside.

Bolt has maintained his common touch with the crowds through all this.

Location: Brazil, Rio de Janeiro