We should thank our lucky stars. What if the world’s fastest man had not been born with the surname Bolt? What if he had been called Plod? Usain Plod. That would have stuffed a few headlines. It would have been hell for commentators.
You think that Bolt could have been called anything and he still would have been the quickest man in the world. He’s a bolt of lightning from the sky, they scream. Hey, he could have been called Usain Storm, which would have meant he would have been from the Stormer family and have proven than not every Stormer finishes second. He was born a bolt and a bolt he is. He lives his name.
On Sunday night, before Bolt had looked his doubters in the eye and slapped them around the chops, another athlete with an appropriate name took her marks, got set and then didn’t go far. The Bulgarian 400m hurdler hit the first jump hard and fell to the ground in a crumpled heap, her Olympics over almost over before they had begun. Four years of training, of pain and suffering, of dieting and dreaming, and in a trip and a crash she was out. In the press tribune we looked up her name on the start sheet: Vania Stambolova.
Sunday night, though, was all about Bolt. He played the night beautifully. He has managed to make it all look so easy down the years, like he’s not really trying.
In Beijing there was a suggestion that he wasn’t trying as he began celebrating with 30m left to run. Afterwards replays showed that his shoelace had been untied. Heck, he had time to stop and tie it with a double knot and still win gold.
In London they had doubted him. Maurice Greene, who won gold in the 100m in Sydney and silver in Athens, wrote for the Sunday Times of London that Yohan Blake would win and Bolt would be second. The rest would be fighting for bronze, he wrote. Then he watched him run in last night’s semi-finals and changed his mind. Bolt had fixed what is wrong with his running, he said.
If they are ahead and assured of qualifying, sprinters like to ease up in the final 10m in the heats and semi-final. It drives me bonkers. I want to see full gas to the finish line. I want to see a world record broken. I don’t want to sit and wonder what might have been had Bolt not had enough time to stop for a smoke with 10m to run.
But he was forgiven by the time the final came around. He played it magnificently. He bumped fists with the volunteer who was holding the basket into which he dropped his tracksuit and smiled at him. Then waited as the camera moved down the line, getting the reaction of the challengers to the king. Asafa Powell scowled and squinted at the camera as though it was the unlikeable Justin Gatlin, who was a few lanes away from Powell, and when was introduced he walked up to the camera and gave it dismissive look. Blake’s pre-race introduction could have been an imitation of a volcano.
Then came Bolt. And the rest knew they were done. He used his fingers to make a little running hand puppet. Then he was a DJ, spinning the vinyl, and then he holstered a gun and threw in what could have been shadow boxing. That’s it. Race over. On your marks, get set and Bolt. Perhaps they should change the name of the start in athletics to suit the king. He deserves it.