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Rediff.com  » Sports » The world expects a Bolt of lightning

The world expects a Bolt of lightning

August 14, 2016 12:15 IST

Usain Bolt is perhaps the only man who can salvage a dismal year for athletics with one final flash of lightning, says Dhruv Munjal.

Usain Bolt was sluggish as he ran past Trinidad and Tobago's Richard Thompson and Great Britain's James Dasaolu in the Men's 100m Round 1 heats at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, August 13, 2016. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

IMAGE: Usain Bolt was sluggish as he ran past Trinidad and Tobago's Richard Thompson and Great Britain's James Dasaolu in the Men's 100m Round 1 heats at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, August 13, 2016. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Earlier this week, during one of those boringly humdrum press conferences at the Olympic Games, a Norwegian reporter sprung a surprise. Sitting in the chair before the world’s journalists was the unmistakable figure of Usain Bolt.

'I don't have a question. I just want to say I love you, man,' said the Norwegian scribe, as befuddled fellow reporters looked on. And then, to the apparent astonishment of everyone present, he starting singing.

I hope you win
I hope it's your day
I hope you win even though
You got hit by a Segway

Bolt stood up and laughed. He cleverly camouflaged a possible hint of embarrassment with a broad grin -- a sense of pride bouncing off his luminous face. Others in the room joined in.

Eight years on from when he first dazzled the world with two world records in Beijing, everyone still loves Bolt: The fans, the neutrals, fellow athletes, and now, even journalists.

In a year that has seen some of world athletics' most abhorrent doping scandals, Bolt, with that almost pompous self-belief, is perhaps the only shining light; the man who can salvage a dismal year for the sport with one final flash of lightning.

In some ways, when the track and field events get underway in Rio over the weekend, restoring the 'feel good' factor in what was once a clean sport will be Bolt's responsibility.

Fans and observers will be watching with watchful eyes and sweaty palms. The clamour for 'Bolt, the saviour' couldn't have been more urgent.

Bolt crosses the finish line ahead of Justin Gatlin to win the gold in the men's 100m final at the World Athletics Championships in Beijing, August 23, 2015. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

IMAGE: Bolt crosses the finish line ahead of Justin Gatlin to win the gold in the men's 100m final at the World Athletics Championships in Beijing, August 23, 2015. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

In any other sport, a man who would have come into the Olympics with so little competitive running would have been relegated to the title of dark horse for victory, but then, Bolt is obviously no ordinary athlete.

His effortless stroll to the finish line in the 200m at the Anniversary Games in London last month might have been a puny prelude to the explosive main event that is to follow.

The Jamaican spent most of last year on the sidelines, and his Olympic preparations were hampered by a hamstring injury that had fans sweating over his participation in Rio.

Thankfully, all such fears were obliterated after the 29 year- old vanquished the rest of the field in London. That Justin Galtlin and Trayvon Bromell -- his two main rivals -- did not travel to the British capital might have played a minor role in the victory.

Michael Johnson, the former 200m world record holder, earlier this year said that he excepts Bolt to win gold in both the 100m and 200m. The only caveat: He has to be fully fit.

Preliminary examinations after his hamstring injury have revealed that he is raring to go. But as is so often the case with swift recoveries from injury, even a minor over-stretch can so easily end in disaster.

Before the World Championships in Beijing last year, Gatlin did almost all of the talking. Bolt, as he should, did most of the running -- sweeping to gold in the both the 100m and 200m.

This time, however, Gatlin has smartly chose to keep quiet, focusing only on preparation instead. What makes this event all the more engrossing? Gatlin has been caught doping twice, most famously after winning the 100m final at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Rio can provide the final settlement to this 'good vs evil' contest.

It would be unfair to expect new world records from Bolt, but a 'triple triple' -- gold in the 100m, 200m and the 4X100m relay in three different Olympic Games -- looks a definite possibility.

The world will be watching.

Dhruv Munjal
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