The world of athletics will never forget the man who rose to dominate the sport for several years.
Usain Bolt, a representative of Jamaica, was a powerhouse of an athlete. He set multiple world records and has an Olympic legacy that may never fade. He shocked the world time and time again at consecutive Summer Olympic Games and his charisma and domination was the talk of the track-and-field community from 2008 and 2016.
Usain Bolt's career before the Olympics:
- At age 15, Bolt first made a name for himself competing at the Junior World Championships in 2002. He won gold in the 200-meter dash, making him the youngest male junior champion in history.
- At 16, he beat the junior world record in the 400-meter and ran 20.13 seconds.
- At 17, he ran another record of 19.93 seconds.
- In 2008, he started to run the 100-meter dash out of curiosity; that year, he broke the world record and ran 9.72 seconds.
Usain Bolt's career after his Olympic debut:
- In the 2008 Olympic games, Bolt becomes the first person to ever win gold in the 4x100 relay, 100 and 200-meter dash.
- In 2009, he ran at the World Championship and beat his own 100-meter dash record, winning the event with a time of 9.58 seconds. After that meet, he ran again and broke his 200-meter dash record by .11 seconds.
- In the 2012 Olympics, Bolt defended his 100 and 200-meter titles, becoming the 1st person to win both races in consecutive Olympics.
He ended his Olympics debut at the 2016 games where he captured gold in the 100, 200, and 4x100 relay. He retired from the track in 2017 after the World Championships, where he won bronze in the 100 sprint, and finished 8th in the 4x100 meter relay.
Even though the lanky Jamaican sprinter retired in 2017, he remains a figure that has left so many memorable moments for fans to relish for the rest of their lives.
Bolt was an embodiment of excitement. Whenever he raced, you could feel the atmosphere wasn't the same. He commanded an incredible number of fans from various countries worldwide. Something about him stood out, and he was nothing short of excellent during his time on the track.
For 12 years, he stamped his feet firmly as the outright best athlete in the world, which is why many people believe today that Usain Bolt is the greatest athlete ever.
So, what made Usain Bolt so unbeatable?
The Jamaican weighed 208 pounds and reached a height of 6-foot-5. His build ensured he remains the biggest man to ever claim the 100-meter world record and his length may be the reason his records remain unbroken.
When you watch Bolt regularly during races, you will observe that he was a slow starter. He did not put in the kind of pace others put in at the sound of the gun, but you see his strides lengthen and he reaches full acceleration when he reaches 50 meters.
After that, Bolt seems to glide past the other world-class competitors with minimal effort. His strides cover more distance and his long frame makes it look as though he is an adult racing against children. And before he crosses the finish line - usually meters ahead of his competition, it seems like he even slows down, knowing the race was won. Still, with a nonchalant start and effortless finish, Bolt set world records.
Has any sprinter ever been as dominant as Usain Bolt?
Bolt was once a back-to-back-to-back Olympic champion and double world record holder at the same time. He initially set the 100m world record running within 9.69 seconds before breaking it. Usain Bolt's 100-meter time of 9.58 seconds remains untouched till today.
During his time, Bolt was a very marketable entity, and he made the athletics event - especially sprinting - the most recognized and followed event of the Olympics.
Tyson Gay, Justin Gatlin and compatriots, Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell gave Bolt a run for his money, but Bolt stood firm against every opposition that came his way.
Gatlin paid homage to Bolt after the American finally defeated the 35-year-old in London in 2012. Gatlin said Bolt "...has come along and took the sport to another level."
The closest rival to Bolt - retired or active - in terms of Olympic medals, dominance and longevity, is Carl Lewis.
Lewis was over 30 pounds smaller, though, and three inches shorter. As a matter of fact, of all the record holders the world has ever seen, no one stands within two inches of the Jamaican legend's height.
Are there any future Olympic sprinters who could break Bolt's world records?
The 100-meter times have not been close to where they were before. They haven’t been close to when Usain Bolt was competing. Since he retired, the fastest 100-meter time produced was in 2019 by Christopher Coleman, which was 9.76 seconds.
New and returning athletes come in each year, set personal bests, and win gold medals, but are never close to breaking his world records.
In the past couple of years, however, there are a few sprinters in particular, that show a certain potential for being the next Usain Bolt.
One of these athletes is a young American, Erriyon Knighton.
Originally from Tampa, Florida, 18 year-old Erriyon Knighton, started running track as a freshman in high school, and he took off from there. He ran the 2nd fastest 200-meter time for an under-18 sprinter at the USA Track and Field Championship, running a time of 20.33 seconds.
In May of 2021, he set the under-18 world record in the 200-meter race, beating Usain Bolt’s best by two-hundredths of a second, to 20.11 seconds.
At the U.S. Olympic Trial semi-finals, he improved on Bolt’s world under-20 record by five-hundredths of a second, to run 19.88 seconds. Then, he further improved that time in the final to run 19.84 seconds.
With all of these crazy times being dropped, people are starting to wonder if Erriyon will be the next Usain Bolt?
He is following in all of his footsteps by beating the under-18 and under-20 records, just like Bolt did when he first started his career. He keeps improving his times at important, and well-publicized track meets.
At the age of 17, he finished 4th at the Tokyo Summer Olympics in August of 2021, running it in 19.49 seconds.
Knighton has put himself in a lane next to Bolt in a what looks to be two-man race to be this era's greatest sprinter.
Both men are similar in figure, as Bolt and Knighton are both tall and lean. Both athletes were star athletes beginning in their teenage years. Bolt’s under-18 and under-20 records for the 200-meter dash, were beaten and claimed by Erriyon Knighton.
The question is how long can Knighton continue his upward trajectory? And how will he compete when he finds himself on track-and-field's biggest stages?
That question cannot be answered. While their careers have both started off the same, they are each their own athlete. Erriyon is his own person, who wants to run in his own name.
Just as much as the crazy numbers and stats, Usain Bolt's personality made him different -- the joy, energy, and excitement he displayed every time he stepped onto the track.
As most sprinters do, they look up to Bolt and the successes he has achieved. The best young sprinters in the world have bright futures ahead of them, and he will continue to break records, and run personal bests. It is unknown if there will ever be another Usain Bolt, but there is certainly young talent that is creeping up.