August 10, 2012
Usain Bolt is the greatest current athlete
By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
LONDON - In the flash of brilliance it took Usain Bolt to run 200 metres here on Thursday night, 19.32 seconds of compelling sporting theatre, there was enough time to end one debate and instantly fire up another.
As the Jamaican living legend kissed the ground in celebration, did pushups in front of the crowd of 80,000 at Olympic Stadium and smoked an imaginary victory cigar, the question of who is the greatest sprinter of all time was left behind in the warm London night.
“I am the greatest athlete to live,” Bolt proclaimed several times before the evening was over and suddenly his field of competition got much bigger.
By becoming the first man to pull off the double-double of Olympic gold in the 100 and 200-metres in back-to-back Games, Bolt effectively ended the discussion of who is the greatest sprinter of all time.
In that race, just like the ones on the track here and four years ago in Beijing, he has no equal.
Next up then, who is the greatest athlete on the planet today?
As subjective as it can be impossible to declare, who doesn’t want to weigh in? Bolt was certainly bold in declaring himself the greatest of all greats, but are you buying it?
Many will give the five-time Olympic gold medallist major props simply for ripping obnoxious American sprinter Carl Lewis a new one in his post-race press conference on Friday. Lewis, who one time might have been in the discussion for greatest sprinter of all time, has questioned Bolt’s success, and by effectively obliterating the American’s accomplishments, Bolt couldn’t bite his tongue.
Others, meanwhile, were instantly willing to build a case against Bolt, the man who is front-page news around the world, a Jamaican athlete by heritage but a man whose appeal has no borders.
While the 6-foot-5 pride of the Caribbean island continued to celebrate on the track, men’s decathlon winner Ashton Eaton was asked whether he was the greatest athlete in the world. That prompted fellow American and silver medallist Trey Hardee to plunge into the discussion.
“So Ashton doesn’t have to sound selfish or self-centred, I’ll answer — Ashton is the best athlete to ever walk the planet,” Hardee said. “Hands down. The title bestowed upon the Olympic champion in the decathlon is ‘the world’s greatest athlete.’”
Says them. How many individual events would any of the multi-sport athletes be able to win a medal in and what percentage of the world’s sports fans could recognize his mug in a police lineup?
Basketball fans will say LeBron James is the best athlete on the planet and he certainly has the ability to dominate an NBA game. Of course there’s that little issue of of the 2011 NBA finals.
Now on the stand, Lionel Messi, the Argentine soccer sensation who may be the best in his sport right now but how many World Cups has he won? That’s not a knock on Messi, but in a team game it’s tough to stand out as a star. That’s why Pittsburgh Penguins’ captain Sidney Crosby is a tough sell as well. Even though he’s the best in the game, he can’t dominate every game he is in.
Tiger Woods? Win another major and we’ll talk, perhaps even leaving out the debate of how athletic golfers really are.
We won’t ignore tennis star Roger Federer, either. The best in the game right now in a highly competitive era, he rightfully belongs among the elite. He could tell Bolt all about it, too. Just make sure he wears his London 2012 silver medal to the summit.
And finally, we’ll bring in the candidate who has been a part of the debate for the past four years, Michael Phelps. The American swimmer is undisputed at something — he is the greatest Olympian of All Time, or G.O.A.T as the acronym declares. When he finished his career here last weekend, Phelps bolstered his medal take to 18 gold and 22 overall, a record that surely never will be matched.
Phelps, in fact, might be the closest and if he would have won all his races here we would have entertained the debate. But a man who made his reputation on being able to win races at different distances and with different strokes couldn’t continue the domination.
Which is where the case for Bolt begins to run away from the field, much as he did in each of his 100- and 200-metre victories here.
When he set his 9.69 world record for the 100 at the Beijing Games, he shocked the world. Less than a year later, a record that usually falls by hundredths of seconds got gashed much deeper when Bolt ran the current mark of 9.58 in Berlin.
“He’s the equivalent of the guy walking on the moon for the first time,” said American Justin Gatlin, third here in the 100 this past Sunday. “He’s done something that no one has ever done before.”
And he does it in style and sublime speed and most often he wins his races going away in a sport that is the most basic sport of every athlete able-bodied person on the planet. People aren’t born to shoot hoops or free kick, they are born to run.
A man who does it so much faster than the rest? Yes Usain, you are the greatest.