Usain Bolt’s talent for speed becomes more apparent now it is denied to us | Jonathan Liew


Bolt had a gift for making the impossible seem easy but his success was based on mental resolve as well as electric pace

Something you may not know about me: there is almost no set of circumstances – personal, professional, medical – in which I will not drop everything to watch Usain Bolt. Naturally, my personalised YouTube algorithm has already known this for some time, and will now instantly recommend me a selection of his greatest hits whenever I log in. “Usain Bolt | IAAF Daegu 2011 (200m s/f)”: yes please! “Bolt beats Gatlin | 2015 World Championships [HD]”: click! “Men’s 200m final | London 2017”: er, I think you’ll find Bolt didn’t run the 200 metres in London that year. Nice try, algorithm. Now get this grubby irrelevance out of my sight.

Perhaps you have your own favourite Bolt race. Perhaps it’s the first time he truly astonished us: the 100m at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, where he smashed the world record despite basically doing jazz hands from about 70 metres, like a Victorian street magician. Perhaps it’s the 9.58sec in Berlin the following summer, a truly ridiculous effort, one best remembered for the collective and involuntary noise the crowd makes when it sees the clock: a sort of aaaawwweuuurrrrgh. This was sport as testimony: after all, you didn’t simply watch Bolt breaking a world record. You witnessed it. You shared it. You shook people by the shoulders and asked – a little superfluously – did you see that?

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Written by Jonathan Liew
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Usain Bolt’s talent for speed becomes more apparent now it is denied to us | Jonathan Liew

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