Sport Athletics One last chance to catch Usain Bolt, the greatest athlete of all time

One last chance to catch Usain Bolt, the greatest athlete of all time

Bolt celebrates a success at the 2008 Olympic Games. Photo: Getty
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If there’s an athlete worth getting out of bed to watch at 6.30am (EST) on a Sunday it’s Usain Bolt.

That’s when the 30-year-old will contest his final competitive individual race – the 100m final at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in London.

Earlier on Saturday, the Jamaican made a stuttering start to his opening race, meaning he had to work harder than expected before reeling in the field to win in 10.07 seconds and advance to the semi-finals.

“That was very bad, I stumbled coming out of the blocks,” the 30-year-old told reporters after the race.

Aussie viewers can catch the final race on Foxtel channel Eurosport.

Many athletes are in the conversation regarding the best athlete of all time – but Bolt has them all covered.

Yes, swimmer Michael Phelps wore more gold than Mr T, and in the tennis world, Roger Federer has won 19 Grand Slam singles titles, and might yet win a few more.

On the women’s side of things, Serena Williams has won 23 and in the most recent did something Federer could never replicate – she did it while she was pregnant.

Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova also warrant a mention.

In boxing, Muhammad Ali became the first man to win the world heavyweight championship three times, the last time an astonishing 14 years after he first won the title, while no basketballer was ever more dominant than Michael Jordan when on song.

But the facts around Bolt are indisputable.

Since 2008 he has won the 100m and 200m titles at every major athletics meet – the Olympics and World Championships – except for a false start in the 100m final in Korea in 2011.

He owns the world record in both the 100m and 200m, set four days apart at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin.

Bolt with his world record time. Photo: Getty

Of the men who have set the 30 fastest times ever over 100m, Bolt is the only one not to have recorded a doping violation.

Rivals like Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay, Maurice Greene, Nesta Carter, Asafa Powell and Yohan Blake all have blemished records.

Bolt, by the way, has set nine of those 30 fastest 100m times – including the top three.

And if you want to talk about a big-time performer, two of those were in Olympic finals.

Adding to the legend is the way Bolt has set those records – he has the charisma of Ali plus the arrogance and innate self-belief of a prime Jordan.

This was on display before the 100m final at the 2012 London Olympics.

While Gatlin paced the track looking like a man on his way to the electric chair, Bolt danced a jig and mimed spinning a turntable like a chilled reggae DJ.

Gatlin got away fastest, and looked the man to beat after 40m, until Bolt stepped into overdrive and blew past him like an ambulance.

In Beijing, 2008, he won the 100m so easily he could have turned around and ran the last few metres backwards.

His time was 9.69 seconds, and he spent the last 15m looking at the crowd and celebrating.

In the 200m at the same Games, he won by 0.66 seconds and looked as though he was still accelerating after crossing the finish line.

Bolt in training this week. Photo: Getty

Watching Bolt run was, in its own way, as electrifying as watching Jordan dunk a basketball, Federer crack a forehand or Ali chinning someone.

Even for people with no interest in athletics, there was something mesmerising about the way the noise levels dipped just before a big sprint race.

And they were over in the blink of an eye.

In fact, if you add up all the time Bolt spent running in individual Olympic finals it’s a mere one minute, 27.53 seconds.

Sure, there were the heats and relays, but at the very business end of Olympic competition we only saw Bolt for 87.53 seconds.

Every one of them was priceless.

And I’ll be rugged up with a coffee, enjoying nine more of them, and change, come Sunday morning.

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