My medallists from London 2012: Bolt, Pearson, and our sailors
Jamaica's Usain Bolt celebrates after winning the men's 200m final. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS
The 30th Olympiad is over, but what is the future of Usain Bolt, the greatest track sprinter the world has ever seen, and arguably the greatest athlete?
He is to the track the Bradman of cricket, the Ali of boxing, the Nicklaus of golf, the Gretzky of ice-hockey, the Pele of football, the Jordan of basketball, the Laver of tennis.
But the giant 195cm (6ft 5) Jamaican poses more questions that answers.
We all know he holds the 100m world record at 9.58s, the 200m at 19.19s, and was the anchorman when Jamaica smashed the 4x100m relay world record with a stunning 36.84s in London.
What we don’t know is how good he really is?
We could count on less than one hand the number of times he has run through the finishing line at full pace. The world 200m record is one, and the recent relay world record is another. But that’s it.
All the other times he has shut down, or switched off, anything up to 20m from the tape.
That being the case, if Bolt ever really finished off all of his races as every coach tells every kid in the world to do, Usain Bolt would be even more awesome.
Would, not could. Somehow, I don’t think we will ever know. That’s Bolt’s free-flowing calypso nature, just do enough to win.
But there’s some unfinished Bolt business to discuss – the 400m flat.
Back in 2007, he ran 45.28 fooling around near home. Michael Johnson’s world record, set in 1999, is 43.18. With Bolt’s technique, stride, and immense power, he’d be an ideal candidate for the 400.
And that may well be the catalyst to keep him interested in chasing more achievements. He had no trouble making it a history-making golden double treble of Beijing and London.
He’ll be 29 by Rio de Janiero in four years time. But will he still be interested in the grind so necessary to stay at the top?
There’s one saving grace here, and it’s his compatriot, close mate, and training partner Yohan Blake, the man Bolt named the “Beast”, who only reaches Bolt’s shoulders at 180cm, or 5ft 11.
Blake is now 22. And when Bolt broke at the start, Blake became the youngest world 100 champion at 21 and 245 days to beat Carl Lewis’ record of 22 and 35. Blake can sure motor.
He pushed Bolt leading into the London Games, and the results speak for themselves. Bolt’s future depends on that rivalry, but if Blake gets browned off with being a permanent bridesmaid and packs up his spikes, I reckon Bolt will lose his desire and call it a day as well.
And that would be a travesty, because we haven’t seen the best of Usain Bolt yet to break 9 seconds for the 100, and break 19 for the 200 – he can do if he sets his mind to it.
From the sheer brute power of Usain Bolt to the technical precision of Sally Pearson. Now there’s a contrast with the same nett result – gold.
Pearson is perfection, the most perfect hurdler I’ve ever seen.
So perfect if she ran in the same lane every race, her spikes would be in the same holes for 100 metres.
Having been a hurdler in my school days, I was taught two fundamentals – spend minimal time airborne, by snapping the lead leg under the hurdle once you cleared it which sets you up quickly for the three steps in between.
Watching Sally, you would swear the hurdles weren’t there so smoothly does she leave them behind her. Like a small blip on the radar.
The additional bonus is her height – 166cm, or just over 5ft 5 – which makes the three steps in between so much easier at full throttle than most of the girls she races against who are taller, with longer strides.
Sally’s true mettle surfaced in the Olympic final in pouring rain. It didn’t make a scrap of difference to the 25-year-old, perfection wins through in all conditions.
So Usain Bolt and Sally Pearson are my two gold and silver Olympians from London and it’s rather fitting they are the current male and female IAAF athletes of the year.
And don’t be surprised if the two of them retain their hard-earned and well-deserved titles. They are the best with more in store.
My bronze memory of these Games are the unheralded Australian sailors, who rightfully became the sung heroes. They collectively showed the rest of their green and gold Olympians how team spirit, good old fashioned Australian guts, and a genuine desire to win without any trumpet blowing, reaped rich rewards.
They produced three of the seven golds the entire team of 410 won. And it could so easily have been four golds had Mother Nature not been so cruel to the very talented match-racing crew of helm Olivia Price, who was catapulted out of the boat in heavy seas, forcing Nina Curtis, and Lucinda Whitty to stop and haul Olivia out of the chop, in winning silver.
It was fitting the retiring Malcolm Page with back-to-back 470 class golds, carried the Australian flag at the closing ceremony which was a salute to his sailing comrades, as well.
So well done London, and well done Seb Coe.
Rio has been set a tough benchmark for 2016.
London 2012 Olympics – Day 17 Gallery
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- 2012 London Olympics