Usain Bolt has already proven himself to be the greatest sprint athlete to have ever walked the face of this earth.
There's really not much more for him to prove. 'All' he needs to do is to maintain his status for as long as possible - this would virtually guarantee fruition of his ambition to become a 'living legend'. But this is what may prove the most difficult for him to do, in light of his proclivities combined with current trends.
Perhaps he'd already considered himself a legend in his own mind. (And who could blame him, really?) But the evidence seems to suggest that Bolt has stagnated or even retrogressed, in recent times, while others have progressed in their sprinting-prowess. In other words; the gap between Bolt and others has narrowed - he's no longer a class above all the rest, at this critical moment, leading into the 2012 London Olympics.
Why is this so?
One could speculate that the reason for this is evident in his supreme dancing-ability. Despite his size, Bolt can aptly demonstrate all the latest Jamaican dance-moves - 'Gully-Creepa' and all. In a recent rivalry between top Dancehall-artistes' camps, 'Gaza' and 'Gully', Bolt found himself advocating for one side over the other (both artistes had supported his exploits, in song). Aside from the paucity of tact displayed in such advocacy, more importantly, his keen interest in such matters, and his demonstrated prowess on the dance-floor, could be argued to be indicators of how distracted he's become.
It's not too difficult to imagine the many hours of practice (on various dance-floors) it would take to achieve Bolt's level of skill in the dance-discipline. But the fact is that a dedicated 'party-animal' can never be as quick, in sprinting, as the 'puma' Bolt once so aptly represented. Perhaps Bolt needs to decide on which of these 'animals' it's most beneficial for him to emulate in his quest to become a living sprinting-legend. (It's also interesting to note that, of his Jamaican rivals, neither Yohan 'The Beast' Blake nor, especially, Asafa Powell can properly 'bust a move' to save their lives. Yet, both can beat Bolt - the former has, emphatically, in recent times). The Americans, Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin, are not renown dancers either, yet both can also beat Bolt. Could it be that complacency (and a misguided focus on distractions) have caused the world's greatest sprinter to be at greater risk of losing his crown?
One could also argue that Bolt is a victim of his own success. After winning so many races with the ease and impunity that he has, and after shattering world-records to the degree that he's done, perhaps he felt that he was so much better than everyone else that he could enjoy other exploits since all he needed to do was to turn-up for a race and he'd automatically win. This would not be helped by those around him reiterating the fact that he's the best.
All the-above amount to mere speculation, you understand, but there must be some explanation for his decline in recent times: He caused a stir and a flurry of speculation as to his conditioning earlier this year when he barely won a Diamond-League race with a time recorded above the 10-second mark, uncharacteristically. This, by itself, could have been written-off as a fluke were it not for the fact that, at the Jamaican Olympic-trials, a struggling Bolt was beaten into second-place by his training-partner, Yohan Blake, at BOTH the 100 and 200-meter distances. Not too long ago, this would have been unthinkable. But now.... Going into the Olympics, and with so little time for him to adjust, this does not encourage optimism regarding his chances to win at the 'Games.
Kudos and congrats, by the way, to American swimmer, Michael Phelps, who has now attained legendary status with the achievement of his record-breaking 19th Olympic medal (at the time of writing). Interestingly, Phelps has admitted to training 365 days per year, with single-minded focus on reaching his goals - NO distractions. Perhaps this may be an example of what's needed for the achievement of 'legendary-status' in athletics. Who knows?
Am I anti-Bolt? Absolutely NOT. After all, I'm Jamaican too. And Jamaica has more to gain from Usain 'Lightning' Bolt winning and achieving his goal than we'd gain from any other Jamaican winning, at THIS time. (This would be counter-productive to Bolt's 'legendary' quest and, therefore, somewhat counter-productive to Jamaica's interests, ironically). We want to see him attaining that 'legendary' status he dreams of - he'd be our 'Bob Marley' of track & field. But we also have to face reality. And the reality, at the moment, doesn't inspire a great deal of confidence in his ability to win - not in his current form, apparently, and not with 'The Beast' and others lurking in the shadows.
Let's hope he does win though, and that he continues to do so. Such a prospect is good for track & field, good for Bolt, good for the Olympics, good for Jamaica and, indeed (with few exceptions) good for the rest of the world.
Hopefully, the next article here will be celebrating his victories. But the emphasis, here, is on 'hopefully' (not normally the case with Bolt) and this is what's so worrying.
Will The Bolt strike The Beast? Or will The Beast bite The Bolt?