When I first saw Usain Bolt at the age of 15 on the race track, I knew I was watching a future world champion. What I didn’t know was that I was privileged to see the greatest sprinter of all time, as I testified seven years ago in this column of 23 August 2009.
Rio 2016 Olympic Games have proved and confirmed it – Bolt has become the first triple/triple sprinter to win the 100, 200 and the 4 x 100 metre relay, back to back. This is how I serenaded it in the August 2009 piece. Enjoy it.
“I have been a fan of Jamaica sprint marvel, Usain Bolt since the Osaka Championships two years ago. As a teenager he was so impressive in the 200 metres but was narrowly beaten by American Tyson Gay.
Even then I did point out in this column that the world should watch out for the lanky fellow.
Today after winning and setting new world record in the 100 metres 9.58 at the Berlin championships, people are already hailing him the greatest athlete of all time. By setting three world records at the Beijing Olympics last year, Bolt certainly qualifies to be so lionized, as nobody else had ever done so.
To win the Olympic gold in three events at the same Olympics, is huge, to set new world records in the three is awesome. American Jesse Owens won four gold in Berlin in 1936, Carl Lewis also four in Seoul 1988, but did not set new records in all.
Some other athletics buff may prefer the winning streak of Ed Moses in the 400 meters hurdles, African romancists may nominate Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia for winning Africa’s first gold in marathon in 1960. Cuba’s Alberto Juantorena’s Montreal 1976 historic double 400 and 800 meters gold medals remain unbeatable, making him the only one in history to win gold in the sprints and middle distance race. Usain Bolt’s three gold medals and three world records easily overshadow all of these, but I believe that the Jamaican has not really reached his full potential.
For as long as he likes, Bolt may continue to set new marks in the 100 and 200 metre mark. If Bolt succeeds in breaking Michael Johnson’s world record 43.18 seconds the tag of being the greatest ever will become unassailable. So to Usain, go for it.”
And by the time Usain Bolt anchored the Jamaica relay to win in Rio, my jubilation knew no bounds. I had conferred a similar honour on tennis legend, Roger Federer, way back in 2005 and he is still basking in glory, Argentine football supremo Lionel Messi is next and the football world is still at his feet, American boxer, Floyd Mayweather is just one professional fight to become the greatest ever whenever he achieves the perfect score of 50/50 professional fights, he would have rubbished the achievement of Rocky Marciano.
If only Nigerians knew the number of sports available at the Olympic Games that are not provided for them by the sports authorities their anger will know no bounds. The 2016 Summer Olympic programme featured 28 sports and a total of 41 disciplines and 306 events.
But we were only prominent in one – football. There were 47 gold medals in athletics; Aquatics (Swimming, Diving, synchronised swimming, water polo) 46 golds, Archery 4; Badminton 5; Basketball 2; Boxing 13; Canoeing 16; Cycling 18; Equestrian 6; Fencing 10; Field Hockey 2; Football 2; Golf 2; Gymnastics 18; Handball 2; Judo 14; Modern Pentathlon 2; Rowing 14; Rugby sevens 2; Sailing 10; Table tennis 4; Taekwondo 8; Tennis 5; Triathlon 2; Volleyball 2; Beach Volleyball 2; Weightlifting 15; Wrestling 18.
54 countries including Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia won at least one gold medal, and Nigeria were among the Zero back markers. Since our participation from 1952 we won medals in boxing, athletics, weightlifting and taekwondo. We have been vastly non-competitive in most other sports disciplines, but since the introduction of the Paralympic Games Nigeria have been pulling their weight. Rio 2016 may not be an exception.