Under a constellation of flashbulbs in the London Olympic stadium, the biggest star of the night was once again Usain Bolt. The world-record smashing Jamaican sprinter became the first man in Olympic history to retain his 200-meter title and he also became the first to win both the 100 and 200 in two Olympics.
In truth, had Bolt never stepped on a track again after he destroyed the world records in the 100 meters and 200 meters at the 2009 Berlin World Championships, he would have already assured himself a spot among the greatest track athletes the world has ever known. But by completing his double-double and mesmerizing us again, he is surely without peer.
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With his time of 19.32 seconds, he didn’t set any records on the track tonight. He finished well off his 19.19 world record and only slightly slower than his Olympic record of 19.30 from 2008. Keep in mind, that 19.32 matches Michael Johnson’s run in Atlanta 1996, which for the 12 years leading up to Beijing, most experts thought was an unbreakable mark. That is, until Bolt broke it.
Yohan Blake actually kept the race interesting. When he charged out of the turn, Bolt’s training partner looked like he could catch his countryman just as he did at the Jamaican Olympic trials where Blake triumphed in both the 100 and 200. But Blake couldn’t quite match the top speed of the world’s fastest man and came in second well ahead of Jamaica’s Warren Weir, making it clean sweep in the event for the Caribbean nation that has a population 1/100th the size of America’s.
At this point, it seems like the 25-year-old Bolt’s only real competitor is his own indifference. He’s got his restaurant in Kingston, Jamaica, Tracks & Records, he’s got his DJing gigs and he has global fame most athletes can’t approach. Consider this, the USA Men’s Basketball players coming to watch him, not the other way around.
[Usain Bolt wins the 2012 London Olympic 100-meter dash]
So can he stay motivated enough? Coming into these games that—along with some questions about his health—was people’s main concern about Bolt. But, as he told NBC’s Lewis Johnson immediately after the 100 meter final, Blake’s victory over him snapped him back into attention and gave him the focus to succeed.
“When Yohan beat me, especially in my 200 meters, it made me had to refocus, it made me had to sit down and look into myself say what just happened,” Bolt said. “For me that was a shock. I learned from that. I just pushed myself for the next three weeks and here I am.”
After the 4x100 relay on Saturday and likely another gold, Bolt must decide if he wants to remain on top of the sprinting world. He still has time in his legs for one more Olympics in Rio where he’ll be 29. After all, Justin Gatlin just placed third in the 100 meters at 30 years old, even after serving a four-year suspension from the sport. So what will be Bolt’s encore—will he try to go for a different type of history? NBC Sports’ track and field analyst Ato Boldon has an interesting idea for how Bolt could amaze us all again at Rio 2016.
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“History says that most sprinters get two Olympics at their peak. Carl Lewis, Maurice Greene and Michael Johnson all had two Olympics at their prime,” Boldon told SI Kids. “Bolt could also go back to a race that all of the experts think is his natural distance, and that’s the 400m, the race he started at. Then he could become the first man to win the 100 and 400 ever at the Olympics. I think he can run and be very very good up until he’s 30.”