As a massive crowd screamed and jumped amid the phenomenon of the world’s fastest man striding to gold in the 100m at the London 2012 Olympic Games in 9.63 seconds, expert regional sports broadcaster Lance Whittaker declared in his commentary, “Is there a throne big enough for Usain Bolt?” The answer then, as it is now, is simply the universe.
Nine years after taking the globe by storm at the Beijing Olympics of 2008, the Jamaican sprint superstar will say farewell to a stupendous career when he graces the track for the final time in the 100m and 4X100m relay at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London at the World Championships.
For every Jamaican, and indeed every Caribbean citizen, it will no doubt be a bittersweet, tear-jerking, chest-thumping moment.
Bolt has been the Caribbean’s darling of excellence, greatness and hope from the very moment he displayed his genius.
Of course, before the 6’ 5” giant from Trelawny, the region had already delivered the likes of reggae icon Bob Marley; the greatest cricketer of all time, Sir Garfield St Auburn Sobers; and countless others who defied the idea that these small islands were merely paradises of sun, sea and sand.
Our Caribbean can produce the exceptional.
Bolt is the undisputed greatest sprinter in history.
He has broken countless records throughout his career and rightfully holds the title of Fastest Man on Earth – which he gained after running the 100m in a record 9.58 seconds in 2009.
Bolt is an 11-time world champion and the only person to hold both the 100m and 200m records at the same time. He has won an impressive eight Olympic gold medals and is the only athlete to win the ‘triple double’, copping the 100m and 200m at three consecutive Olympics.
Yet, he brought much more than his prowess on the track.
Bolt revived hope in a sport that has been tainted by drugs, staying clean above the mire of steroids which has caused some of the biggest names in sports – Tyson Gay, Justin Gatlin, Marion Jones and Lance Armstrong – to fall from grace.
We couldn’t be prouder of his demonstration of natural talent combined with discipline and hard work.
And then there is his charisma. Who hasn’t fallen in love with, and mimicked the lightning bolt pose?
Dismiss the misguided few who saw his theatrics on the track as arrogance. For us in the Caribbean, Bolt was simply being irie.
“I’m confident on the track when I compete, but off the track I’m just as simple as I can be,” the big man said.
Bolt’s playful showmanship was a treat for the sport and his fans. Finally, we had a track star who could give the ordinary man and woman and every boy and girl the feeling that they too, no matter how humble their beginnings, could be great.
The track world will miss his personality. There has been much talk this week in international circles about the void his departure will leave.
For us in the region, we herald the possibilities and the opportunity to celebrate.
Certainly he deserves the highest honour, not only from his native Jamaica but from every Caribbean country that claimed him as their own.
We laud Sir Hilary Beckles for the foresight of naming the sports complex at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies after the legend.
Much more can be and should be done for Usain Bolt.
More importantly, at a time when our region is woefully short of positive role models and some of our young people are surrendering to the vices of guns and illegal drugs, we hope authorities will actively engage the Bolt, not only in search of the Caribbean’s next sprint star, but as an inspiration for all to blaze a trail of excellence in worthwhile pursuits.
Bolt told reporters on Monday that he wants to travel the world and inspire the next generation to take up the sport.
“I’d like to travel around and inspire the kids; try to explain to them what I’ve been through throughout my career.
“If I can do that that’d be great. Travel to all corners of the world and try to get people into the sport,” he said.
Let’s not take him for granted and allow the rest of the world to benefit.
But for now, we all look forward to Saturday with unbridled expectation that win or lose, Bolt in his purple and gold spikes will forever remain the legend of athletics.