|Born:||August 21, 1986
Montego Bay, Jamaica
|Ht: / Wt:||6’4″ / 198 lbs|
|Event(s):||100m, 200m, 4x100m relay|
Can’t stop the Usain-ity
Usain Bolt has taken Beijing by storm at the 2008 Olympics. Bolt electrified 90,000 fans at the Bird’s Nest, striking not once but thrice with world records. First, he blew away the field in the 100m on Aug. 16, lowering his own world record to 9.69 seconds despite looking around, raising his arms out and then pounding his chest over the last few meters. Then he become the first man since Carl Lewis to sweep in the 100m and 200m at the Olympics, and he broke Michael Johnson’s 12-year-old record in the process. Bolt dominated the field to clock 19.30, bettering Johnson’s mark by .02. Finally, Bolt ran the third leg of Jamaica’s 4x100m relay, handing off to Asafa Powell, who brought it home for an easy gold.
World’s Fastest Man
Bolt already owned the world record in the 100m coming into Beijing, despite little experience at that distance. On May 31, Bolt ran his way into history when he shattered the world record, running 9.72 seconds to win the event at the Reebok Grand Prix in New York. Bolt’s time, which was run with a 1.7 meters-per-second tailwind, lowered the mark of 9.74 set in September by fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell. Making the record even more remarkable is the fact that it came in only his fourth race at the distance in major international competition.
As an 18-year-old at the Athens Olympics in 2004, Bolt, still feeling the effects of a hamstring injury suffered that spring, was eliminated in the first round of heats in the 200m.
Speed to burn
Known more for his prowess in the 200m, Bolt proved that he also was an Olympic medal threat in the shorter sprint on May 3, when he won the 100m at the Jamaica International Invitational in a blistering 9.76 seconds. The time was just .02 off the world record set in September by Jamaica’s Asafa Powell.
Although he dominated the World Junior scene, the senior circuit had been a different story. In 2003, Bolt was left off Jamaica’s roster for the World Championships in Paris because officials felt that at age 17, he was not ready to compete on that level. At the 2005 Worlds in Helsinki, Bolt qualified for the 200m final but finished last in 26.27 seconds, almost six seconds out of seventh place. But Bolt made the most of his 2007 opportunity in Osaka, Japan, winning 200m silver in 19.91. Tyson Gay took gold in 19.85.
A series of injuries that threatened to derail his career, reports of hard partying and lack of interest in training had caused many to write Bolt off as another over paid, spoiled athlete. But on June 24, 2007, Bolt crossed the finish line of the 200m in 19.75 seconds, breaking the Jamaican record set by Olympic legend Donald Quarrie in Cali, Colombia in August 1971, 15 years before Bolt was even born. “Over the years, I have learned a lot and it forces you to grow up quickly,” Bolt said in an IAAF interview. “I am hungry for a title under my belt and if you want to be a champion you have to be serious, buckle down and do the work required.”
During 2006, Bolt ran a total of seven times under 20.30 seconds, including a second-place 19.96 at the Athens World Cup and a 19.96 third-place finish at the World Athletics Final. But most significantly, for the first time since his appearance on the international circuit, Bolt remained injury-free throughout the whole summer.
Flash of the future
Bolt found himself in the thick of a great 200m race in Lausanne in 2005, the fastest since the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. He clocked a World Junior record 19.88, a time that under any other circumstance might have won the race. But it was only good for bronze as Xavier Carter won in 19.63 and Gay finished second in 19.70 with Wallace Spearmon a close fourth in 19.90.
First with a burst
On April 11, 2004, Bolt sped to a superb 19.93 World Junior record making him the first, and to-date the only teenager to break the 20-second barrier. Knee and back injuries that year rendered him unable to defend his World Junior title in Grosseto.
Bolt’s road to success began when his country hosted the 2002 IAAF World Junior Championships. Rarely had a junior track and field competition produced the incredible scenes witnessed on July 19, when the tall 15-year-old won the 200m final in 20.65 seconds before a sellout crowd of 36,000 in Jamaica’s National Stadium in Kingston. At 15 years and 332 days, Bolt became the youngest-ever male World Junior champion. Bolt holds the world age group records for 15- and 16-year-olds, and the World Youth and World Junior records.
Bolt, who signed his first professional contract at age 17, just out of William Knibb Memorial High School, is nicknamed “Lightning Bolt.” Bolt has been running since age 10, when he was in primary school, and was a fast cricket bowler when he was younger, but no longer plays the sport.