August 9, 2012, 10 years ago today: Jamaica’s Usain Bolt becomes the first man in history to sweep the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes in back-to-back Olympics. Bolt won the 200 at the Summer Games in London that evening, adding that gold medal to the one he captured in the 100 a couple nights earlier and the two he won in Beijing in 2008. Bolt, of course, three-peated the feat in the 2016 Olympics in Rio and is considered the greatest sprinter in history. He’s still the world record-holder in the 100 (9.58 seconds) and the 200 (19.19 seconds). Bolt also shares the world mark in the 4×100-meter relay.
Bolt was still 15 when a growth spurt took him to 6-feet, 5-inches in 2002. Some thought he was going to be too tall to dominate as a sprinter on the world stage. Oh how wrong they were. Bolt became the youngest world junior gold medalist ever when he thrilled a home crowd in Kingston, Jamaica, by winning the 200 in the IAAF World Youth Championships. Nerves had overtaken him before the race, and he put his shoes on the wrong feet (correcting it before taking the starting line).
He was notoriously undisciplined in his early years, feasting on fast food and partying in Kingston nightclubs. But by the time Bolt turned pro in 2004, he was trusting his coaches instead of just his natural ability. He qualified for his first Olympics that year in Athens but did not medal, running only in the 200. By the time of the Beijing Games in 2008, Bolt was in high gear and swept the 100 and 200, setting world records in both. He was roundly criticized for pounding his chest before the finish line in the 100, but that was just the exuberant Bolt being Bolt.
The career take for the Jamaican superstar: eight Olympic gold medals and 11 world titles. Bolt won every gold medal at the World Championships in the 100-meters, 200-meters and 4×100-meter relay from 2009 to 2015 with the exception of a false start in the 100 in 2011. True to form, Bolt once said, “I’m now a legend. I’m also the greatest athlete to live.” He declared that midway through his pro career, after his sweep in London. Bolt, who turns 36 later this month, retired in 2017.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)