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Usain Bolt sets huge Olympic challenge

The challenge of winning four gold medals at the London 2012 Olympics is a monumental one for sprint great Usain Bolt of Jamaica. History’s best sprinter over 100 meters (9.58) and the 200 meters (19.19) has set his sights on gold medals in the 100 meters (m), the 200m, the 4x100m and the 4x400m relays.

Another pretty good sprinter of world track and field history, American Michael Johnson, has expressed doubts and thinks the problem will be the attempt for the 1,600m relay gold.

Johnson understands sprinting quite well. His best over 100m was 10.08, he held the world record in the 200m (19.32) before Bolt, and he owns the 400m open world mark (43.18). Johnson firmly believes “you can’t train for the 400” and the shorter sprints equally as well.

The view here is that if anybody can pull off the quadruple of gold medals being targeted by Bolt, it is the Jamaican. He is the finest sprinter who ever lived. Before the emergence of Bolt, I considered American Tommie Smith the all-time greatest sprinter, primarily because he was a record holder at all of the sprint distances during his awesome career.

American Bob Hayes and Carl Lewis are definitely in the discussion. So are Jamaica’s Herb McKenley and the Jamaican-born Canadian Donovan Bailey. Bolt has demonstrated though that he is out of their reach. Thus, I think that winning a gold medal on the Jamaican 4x400m team is in the realm of possibility for Bolt. Nevertheless, the concession must be made. Johnson speaks to a real problem area for Bolt if he hopes to accomplish the four-gold-medal objective.

Bolt’s personal best for the 400m open is 45.28. He has done 400 splits under 44 seconds. That’s why I believe his goal is possible. He will need to have a preparation program that does not take away the edge for the 100 and the 200 and at the same time, enables him to be sharp also for the longer sprint. That’s a great mountain to climb.

We have a local example of how going after the 100, the 200 and the 400 can dilute one’s success.

I refer to Mike Sands, the present Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) President. From 1970 through 1976, he was an elite athlete. I’ve always felt he could have been one of the world’s best in the 200m. He was speedy and he was strong. That’s an excellent combination for the half lap.

At Penn State University though, he was needed to run the three events for points. At home, he was better than all over the three distances, so he obviously preferred the glory of being top gun in the three events rather than to specialize. I wish he had.

Sands would have won at least a handful more meaningful medals, rather than the one 200m bronze from the 1975 Pan American Games. My feeling is that his body was always so taxed from training for and participating in the three events that he was never able to reach his peak in any of them. This is the conundrum Bolt faces.

In any event, the ‘prospect’ is leading to lots of anticipation, and a certain level of expectation around the world. He would have been the big focus of observers around the world even without his stated objective. Now, Usain Bolt will simply claim a much larger portion, of the Olympic spotlight in London.

(To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at [email protected])

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