Saturday, August 11, 2012

Usain Bolt is a legend in his own eyes... And that's good enough for me

Dear people with your underwear in a twist because Usain Bolt has the audacity to call himself a legend, which Jacques Rogge doesn't endorse;

The man has repeatedly said 'I will consider myself a legend if I can defend my Olympics titles.' This is even after the term was handed to him after his mind-boggling exploits in Beijing. BOLT thought it premature to have that honour bestowed on him because he wanted to prove he could do it all again. Well, he did just that, in the process, becoming the first person to win back-to-back 100m, 200m and 4x100m titles. Bear in mind that Bolt has also successfully defended his World Championship 200m crown and has won other medals at that level as well. In addition, he has set five individual world records and three with the relay team. He's a former World Youth and World Junior champion, becoming the youngest WJC winner at age 15. His WYC 200m record of 19.93, run at 17 years old, still stands. At 16, he was doing some serious 'big man' times.

As if all that weren't enough, Bolt is one of only seven athletes IN THE WORLD to win titles at all levels of international competition. No Americans are on this list, despite their dominance over the years.

Whether or not you want to call him a legend is up to you, but Bolt has achieved what he believed would get him to that status and who are you to tell him that he isn't? He wasn't asking anybody to agree with him. Reading some of the comments below this article, I had a great laugh as I realised some people think he's actually UPSET that Rogge has questioned his legendary status! Dear folks, the man has much better things to do than belabour what he believes is a moot point. He is in no way seeking Rogge's or anyone else's validation because he has already achieved his STATED goal.

From that perspective, I believe he is fully justified in ascribing to himself the accolade of 'living legend'. They say self praise is no recommendation, but I believe his work speaks for and recommends him, and has been doing so since he was a teenager. Is he a bit brash and cocky? You bet. Can he get out of line? Of course. Is he intrinsically full of it? No. He loves the limelight and loves to put on a show and there is nothing wrong with that. Look how the crowds eat it up wherever he goes! While I sometimes want to muzzle him, this is not one of those times. He absolutely does not need to 'prove himself' in other athletic events to deserve the title of legend. Did anyone have the effrontery to ask Muhammad Ali to take a crack at playing football? Should Sergey Bubka have perhaps tried his hand at the high jump despite his 35 world records, six World Championship titles and Olympic gold medal in the pole vault? Is the question then the quantity of Bolt's achievements? I guess he should qualify for the 2016 Olympics and pull off another unprecedented triple win before he is 'worthy' of the distinction, right? I don't think so. That would certainly be great to witness and it would only make him an even bigger legend, in my opinion. And the issue cannot be invincibility, because neither Ali nor any other of the other 'more deserving' athletes has a perfect record.

Bolt is the kind of naturally gifted athlete that can excel in any sport he tries. Here in Jamaica, we have seen his exploits in charity football and cricket matches. In fact, cricket was his first love. Can you imagine if he had not been called to track and had become a fast bowler? He would have certainly set records there too, maybe become one of the greats. He has said he would like to try the long jump at some point and I believe he would be great at that as well - something else for constant (hypo)critic Carl Lewis to hate him for. In that case, I say go for it and rub it in his face! Bolt has also said (whether in jest or seriously) that he wants to try out for Manchester United Football Club, and I have no doubt he'd be excellent in the Premier League. NFL pundits have even salivated at the prospect of having his speed on display as a running back. The man is just that good an athlete.

It might irk some people (especially non-Jamaicans who are not au fait with our ways) to see Bolt even being considered on the same level of greatness as Ali or Jesse Owens. However, the common thread is that each man has done something unprecedented in his respective event, something so spectacular it can only be described as... legendary.

Will the day come that somebody else eclipses all that Bolt has accomplished? No doubt about it. That's the way the world works. Things and time change and each generation produces its own set of stars that shine brighter than their predecessors. It is no cause for hard feelings or cries of 'too much pride'. The man knows his place in history and is prepared to assert it, even if no one else will. He is not afraid of his greatness and if it offends anyone, tough luck. You don't have to like him or agree that he's a legend, but one thing is certain - you can't erase his name and exploits from the annals of history.

Yours sincerely,
Jamaican track fan

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