Recent results suggest Australian distance running is in an exciting renaissance phase. Three runners have stood out and recently produced Australian records on the world stage.
Usain Bolt is responsible for the best, but saddest, quote of the Rio Olympics – “I’m getting old, I’m slowing down, it’s time to get out quick.”
Quick – now there’s a word that is all Bolt, although mighty quick would be a far more accurate description, the fastest and most successful sprinter of all time.
Sad because we’re never going to see the most charismatic easy-going athlete who has drawn countless thousands of extra fans to the track.
When the Jamaican wasn’t running in Rio the Olympic Stadium was a fifth full at best. But when he was on duty it was a chockers crowd, 60,000-strong, and thunderous in their applause.
He’s 30 tomorrow, and retires with nine Olympic gold medals from nine finals in three events, the gold equal of the Flying Finn Paavo Nurmi from six events, and American Carl Lewis from four.
But there’s no argument, Usain Bolt is the best of three – never beaten in three Olympics, while Nurmi won three silvers in four Olympics, and Lewis one in four.
100m gold in 2008, 2012, and 2016.
200m gold in 2008, 2012, and 2016.
4x100m relay gold in 2008, 2012, and 2016.
10,000m gold in 1920 and 1928.
5,000m gold in 1924, silver in 1920, and 1928.
3,000m steeplechase gold in 1924, silver in 1928.
1,500m gold in 1924.
Individual cross country gold in 1920 and 1924.
Team cross country gold in 1920 and 1924
100m gold in 1984 and 1988.
200m gold in 1984, silver in 1988.
Long jump gold in 1984, 1988, 1992, and 1996.
4×100 relay gold in 1984, 1992.
Add further proof, as if it’s needed:
Usain Bolt has run 10 of the top 30 fastest 100m times in history, ranging from 9.58 to 9.79.
Next best is Justin Gatlin with six of the top 30, from 9.74 to 9.78.
Then Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay with five each in the to 30 – Powell’s range 9.72 to 9.78, and Gay 9.69 to 9.79.
In the 200m, it’s an even more dominant Usain Bolt story.
Bolt features in 14 of the top 30 times, ranging from 19.19 to 19.68.
Gay is next best with four in the top 30, from 19.58 to 19.70.
The former world record holder Michael Johnson figures in three in the top 30, ranging from 19.32 to 19.71.
So the curtain falls on a genuine, irreplaceable super-star, who has one regret – that he didn’t become the first to crack the 19-second barrier for the 200m.
But for his last individual event it was cold and wet, hardly conducive to a history-making time.
Nonetheless, Usain Bolt strides into the sunset with sporting fans worldwide grateful they had the privilege to witness so many spine-tingling moments.
No-one has ever struck like the Lightning Bolt – the 100m, 200m, and relays of the future will never be the same.