Who is the greatest athlete of all time? That's a really difficult question isn't it? Perhaps one that can never have just one answer. Different athletes have dominated their sport over different generations, which has given birth to the list of the greatest athletes of all time. One man who has staked a huge claim in no uncertain terms for a spot on that list is Usain Bolt.
Â You don't have to be a boxing fan to know Muhammad Ali's most famous line, "I am the greatest." Approximately half a century later, Bolt has echoed the same sentiment about himself multiple times. In all fairness, the fastest man on the planet has a lot to boast about. As an athlete, Bolt is a remarkable specimen, having thoroughly dominated the 100m and 200m sprints on both the Olympic and World stage. As a showman, there's no one better.
But behind the showmanship, behind the theatrics, behind the beaming face for the million shutterbugs that surround him after each race, lies the heart of a true champion and incredible self-belief.
In his 100m semifinal at the Beijing World Championships, Bolt stumbled at the start. But he knew he would win, and he did. For most other athletes, a stumble like that would mean kissing the chance of winning goodbye, but not for Bolt.(Bolt Happy to Prove Critics Wrong)
After winning the title and beating Justin Gatlin by one hundredth of a second, Bolt in his trademark style said, "It's simple, I just stumbled, but I knew that I was better than anybody in the field, so all I had to do was compose myself and just run my race."
The man Bolt is compared to the most in athletics is another great, Carl Lewis. The numbers though clearly give Bolt the edge. While Carl Lewis won 5 Olympic sprint gold medals between 1984 and 1996, Bolt has already won 6 in 2 editions so far. Bolt also has 11 World Championship titles as compared to Lewis' 6 in sprinting.
When asked if he is in the same category as Muhammad Ali, Pele, Maradona and Michael Jordan, Bolt said, "I can't say if I have the status of Ali or Pele. I've really set myself high in track and field. Michael Jordan was the greatest in his sport and I'm the greatest in mine. Ali was the greatest in his. I'm guessing I am in that category, but I'll let other people decide that. I just know I'm a legend."
It was after he shattered the 200m world record in Berlin in 2009 to set an incredible mark of 19.19 seconds, that Bolt was catapulted into the club of greats. Four years later, when he won his 3rd consecutive 200m World title in Moscow, he knew he didn't need to prove anything anymore. He simply said, "
I am a legend now, I just have to add to my legend status. I want to continue dominating, so that at the end of my career, I am considered to be one of the greats."
Such is Bolt's dominance out on the track that there have been occa
sions when he has found time to celebrate his win even before he crossed the finish line. It is t
hat dominance that has seen him become the first man to hold the 100m and 200m World records simultaneously (since the inception of automatic timing), the first man to win 6 Olympic golds in sprinting and the first to win 100m & 200m titles in consecutive Olympic Games (2008 & 2012).
From Barack Obama to Prince Harry, Bolt's fan-following is truly global. After all, he is an athlete who has had a truly global impact. In fact when Obama met Bolt, the US President exclaimed, "Nobody has ever been faster than this guy. Ever. Of all the billions of people."Â Â
Former American athlete Michael Johnson, whose 200m "unbreakable" World record was shattered by Bolt in Beijing in 2008, summed it up really well, saying, "He (Bolt) is one of the few global superstars to come out of athletics in the last 20 or so years."
Bolt has already carved a niche for himself. So much so that the latest debate is, who is the more legendary Jamaican - Bolt or Bob Marley?
Usain Bolt. A man who is impossible to beat. An athlete who is already a legend. Is he the greatest sprinter of all time? Bolt is definitely not the only one who will say yes to that.