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End of a golden run

 The fastest man on earth had to settle for bronze in his swansong international 100m – certainly a disappointing episode for the athletic world as well as for the charismatic athlete. In the London World Athletic Championship on Saturday night, sprint superstar Usain Bolt came third after Americans Justin Gatlin (9.92 sec) and Christian Coleman (9.94 sec) with a timing of 9.95 sec.

It was August 14 last year that Bolt sprinted to the 100m gold in the Rio Olympics pushing behind Gatlin (9.89 sec) to the second spot clocking 9.81 sec. I was fortunate to have witnessed Bolt clinch his sixth Olympic gold. The 6-foot-5-inch Jamaican was in lane No. 6 and Gatlin in No. 4. Bolt was late in taking off. His reaction time was 0.155 sec, while Simbine Akani of South Africa reacted in 0.128 sec after the fire. Till 40 metres Bolt was well behind, but after that he used his turbocharger and ‘Bolted’ to finish first.

Prior to that, I truly enjoyed Bolt’s heats and semifinals at the Olympic Stadium, situated at Deodaro in Rio de Janeiro. Bolt’s gold winning 200m and 4x100m relay in Rio were also amazing.

Usain Bolt was born on August 21, 1986 to Jennifer and Wellesley in Sherwood Content in the Trelawny section of Jamaica. He drew attention of everybody showing great promise as a sprinter at an early age. As a primary school student, he began entering regional races and at the age of 12, he established himself as one of the fastest sprinters in his locality.

Usain was not serious in practice, but his teachers Pablo McNeil and Dwayne Narrett always motivated and virtually dragged him to the track. However, his height, weight and strength were enough to keep him afloat in all the races he joined at the age of 14.

Cricket and football were his first choice. Pakistani pacer Waqar Younis was his idol. But recognising his blinding speed, his cricket coach encouraged him to give track a serious look. Finally, he concentrated seriously in track events and in 2001, Usain Bolt competed in his first major championship – the Caribbean Regional Meet (CARIFTA Games), representing Jamaica. In the same year, Usain’s journey in the international circuit began with an entry in the IAAF World Youth Championships held in Hungary. He set a new personal best in the 200m with 21.73 sec. It was, however, not enough to earn him a medal.

Usain was also known as practical joker. In 2001, during the trials for the CARIFTA Games, he disappeared. He was hiding in the back of a van and police had to recover him. People howled that McNeil couldn’t control the boy. Everybody preferred Usain should be moved to Kingston so he could train under the more watchful eye of the Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association at the University of Technology. The request came directly from Prime Minister PJ Patterson.

At the 2003 World Youth Championships, Usain continued to smash records, including a time of 20.40 sec in the 200 metres – in the face of a headwind. At the Pan-American Junior Championships, he tied the world junior record of 20.13 sec in the 200m.

Usain’s prowess as a sprinter started garnering comparisons to Americans Michael Johnson and Maurice Green. Johnson himself predicted great things for Usain. Like many in the sport, however, he was concerned about the teenager’s wavering focus. The move to Kingston had helped Usain’s times, but the temptations of the capital city often divided his attention. His coaches were apoplectic when they spotted him playing pickup basketball or stuffing his mouth with fast food. And stories of his high-spirited nightclub romps were regular items in the local papers.

At the end of 2003 he switched over to senior competitions and next year he turned professional although he was technically a junior athlete. That year he ran 200m in 20 sec which earned him a berth in Jamaican squad for the Athens Olympics.

The 2008 season was Usain’s one of the most successful periods as he clocked 9.76 sec in the 100 metres during a meet in Jamaica. Only another human – his teammate Powell – had ever recorded a faster time. With his sudden success in the 100 metres, Usain abandoned plans to compete in the 400m in Beijing. The 2008 Olympics turned out to be the Usain’s coming-out party.

In the 100 metres qualifying, Usain clocked 9.92 sec in quarterfinals and 9.85 sec in semis. In the final, he blew everyone away, racing to a new world record of 9.69 sec. The silver medallist, Richard Thompson, was two-tenths of a second behind. Usain actually slowed down before breaking the tape and started celebrating by thumping his chest. International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge wasn’t thrilled by the move, stating that it was disrespectful.

Usain next set his sight on equalling Carl Lewis’s feat of winning gold in the 100 metres and 200 metres in the same Olympics. He also hoped to crack Michael Johnson’s world record of 19.32 sec in the 200m, set during the 1996 Summer Games. Usain was so good in the preliminaries that he jogged across the finish line. In the final, he broke the tape at 19.30 sec to become the new world record-holder. Two days later, Usain ran the third leg of the 4x100m relay. The Jamaicans sprinted to victory and Usain capped his third gold of the Summer Games. He, Carter, Michael Frater and Powell set a new Olympic record with a time of 37.10 sec.

Three world records in the same Olympic Games... Usain Bolt became a legend. This great Jamaican sprinter culminated his journey on athletic tracks in London amid the cheering of 60,000-odd crowd.

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