Usain Bolt - Lighting speed

History is a great teacher, schooling us repeatedly in the deeds and triumphs of those men and women which last forever.

Indeed, what the Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt achieved in Beijing four years ago is already part of Olympic lore. But what has helped us retain in our hearts the feats of this young athlete, in all its freshness, is the manner in which he seized a few seconds and filled it with raw power through his long and explosive strides to race straight into history.

Michael Phelps had almost completed his voyage to Olympic immortality by the time the track and field competitions got underway at the superbly innovative Bird’s Nest. And with a stack of eight gold medals already in his kitty, Phelps was pretty much reckoned as the star of the Beijing Games.

However, that was before Bolt made his appearance. He had been part of the Jamaican squad in Athens in 2004, but had failed to make an impact due to a recurring hamstring injury, exiting from the 200m in the first round itself. But heading to the Chinese capital, Bolt was confidence personified with the 100m world record etched against his name. Yet, the world was still unsure of how far this talented athlete would carry himself to put in shade the unique haul of Phelps.

Indications came early enough as Bolt won his heats and made a fine dash in the semifinal, clocking the best time (9.85s) of the series, the next day. What followed a few hours later was simply mind-blowing. In the final, Bolt blasted the field away by the 70m-mark and then opened his arms in celebrations before slapping his chest and crossing over the finish line with a new world record time of 9.69s. And what more, with the biggest victory margin ever in the event at the Olympics.

Now a darling of the media and an instant crowd-puller, Bolt eased to a stupendous win in the 200m, four days later. Again it was simply outstanding as Bolt broke new ground, setting a new Olympic and world record at 19.30s, prompting American legend, Michael Johnson to comment, “We have never seen anything like this before.”

Two days later, Bolt made a third trip to the track and running the third leg alongside Nesta Carter, Michael Frater and Asafa Powell helped Jamaica win the 400m relay, yet again with a new Olympic and world record. It was just a formality. With three gold medals and an equal number of world records, Bolt suddenly had the world at his feet. And Phelps, sadly, was a distant memory by then.

A. Vinod