At the recent World Championships in London, a wide array of athletes from various countries strived to enhance their credentials with podium finishes versus the most accomplished competitors from around the globe. Yet, two athletes seemed to be at the forefront of focus, predominantly due to their impending retirement; whilst Mo Farah concluded his major championship career with a gold and silver medal, Usain Bolt, the world record holder for both the 100m and 200m, may have performed superiorly at previous championships. Upon Justin Gatlin’s victory in the 100m, Bolt’s individual career concluded with a bronze medal, yet this may be overshadowed by his achievements across the entirety of his career as, with 8 Olympic gold medals, and consistent amassing of world records, his legacy may have already been cemented at the pinnacle.
Throughout the last decade, Bolt seems to have dominated the sprinting world, consistently coasting through the heats before performing at his peak capabilities as the necessity intensified. At the Beijing Olympics, Bolt, who had previously been a junior champion, amassed three gold medals and, whilst his 4x100m eventually became nullified in the recent re-medalling situation, he eventually completed the double-treble at the next two Olympics. These accomplishments ultimately enabled him to have a vast array of opportunities, both in terms of sporting glory and sponsorships, and this may be the most poignant factor in the cementing of his legacy, as he consistently showcased key traits required to succeed at the pinnacle, reiterating how hard work and determination may result in triumphs, rather than the opposing route.
Although Bolt’s achievements surpass any of his rivals, he ultimately decided his swansong would be at the London 2017 Championships which, whilst leading to Bolt requiring to replicate his past achievements, and perhaps placing him in challenging circumstances, it may have ultimately been a challenge he relished. In addition, his involvement also seemed to prove dividends for all parties; for the fans, it provided them with an opportunity to see him compete at one of the most established stadiums in the world, and for competitors it gave them an opportunity to finish ahead of Bolt and achieve a major honour. This may have been the primary reason Bolt opted to compete, as he may have been striving to provide everyone with a prime opportunity to be satisfied with the conclusion of his career, another key trait required in the ensuring of his legacy.
Whilst Bolt’s other races in past championships may have been superior to his recent results in London, his overall persona seemed to draw in a wide breadth of support for the Championships, and with the stadium often filled to capacity, it seems his involvement, rather than his actual results, seem to take precedence, and provide the sport with multiple benefits. Yet, he may have also been preparing for the sport’s future after his involvement, with his retirement perhaps providing opportunities for both his current colleagues and future young athletes. Whilst for the former it may enable his Jamaican teammates to strive to perform at the pinnacle in order to be referred to as the talisman of the team, and also enable other teams to capitalise on his absence, as seen with Britain in the relay, it may simultaneously result in an influx of young athletes highly motivated to replicate his achievements.
Bolt may now aim to productively utilise this period to consider his options for the next stage of his career, and with his continuous attainment of gold medals propelling him to the forefront of the sport, acting as the catalyst in increased proficiency from his rivals, he may already be held in high regard by the IAAF. Whilst this may claim the majority of the plaudits focus, his crowning glory may ultimately be the impact on the entirety of the sport itself, as in a time where there seems to be a complex predicament for the sport with the re-medalling situation, he seemed to act as the poster boy for the sport when the necessity intensified, and therefore may have been a prime contributor in enabling Athletics to continue its tenure at the pinnacle.
How may Bolt’s legacy lay the foundations for a fresh start in athletics?