The sport of Track & Field has grown exponentially since Jesse Owens gave Hitler and Germany's Nazi’s the gas face by winning four gold track medals in Berlin in 1936 in front of the infamous orchestrator of an an attempted genocide. hat Olympic Games, held in the devil’s lair, That was supposed to prove Hitler’s theory of Aryan racial superiority.
Instead, Owens broke five world records and equaled a sixth in 45 minutes of black-packed action. He won gold medals, in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and the long jump. He managed to break or equal nine Olympic records.
Eighty years later, Usain Bolt is breaking records and keeping the spirit and pioneering efforts of Jesse Owens alive and unlike Carl Lewis, who was also a legend in track & field, Jamaica’s Bolt hasn’t ever been embroiled in scandal or had his greatness questioned by science.
With all due respect to Michael Phelps, Bolt is the biggest attraction and the most captivating athlete at these Olympic Games in Rio. Phelps has inspired a generation of swimmers, but Bolt continues to inspire a nation. And every time he dusts another American runner, his popularity seems to increase ten-fold.
On Sunday, Bolt became the first to ever win three straight 100-meter Olympic titles, solidifying his place as the most dominant track Olympian in modern history. The 11-time World Champ came from behind against American rival Justin Gatlin to easily win the gold with a time of 9.81.
While Gatlin was able to redeem himself with a silver medal 12 years after striking Olympic gold and then being suspended for four years for testing positive for a steroid just weeks after breaking the world record in 2006, he seemed to be running for his life and then running in quick sand as the race progressed.
Bolt, always calm, cool, cocky and loose, seemed to be jogging through the first 50 meters and then turned on the 6-foot-5 afterburners and coasted past an exasperated Gatlin to victory.
The Jamaican sensation, who legendary NBC announcer Bob Costas compared to the incomparable Bob Marley earlier this week, setting off a firestorm of criticism and opinion from the social media sharks, is favored to win the 200 and 4X100 relay as well to cap a “triple-triple”
If Bolt achieves this, he will have accumulated nine gold medals which would tie Carl Lewis and Finnish distance runner Paavo Nurmi for the most in Olympic track history.
In addition to his athletic dominance, Bolt’s charismatic persona and super cool attitude has made him a celebrity and an immortal athlete, especially in Kingston, Jamaica.
To compare Bolt to Marley is totally unfair, because it’s hard to compete with the deceased. It’s almost impossible to compete with the leader of a cultural revolution who happens to also be one of the greatest musicians and singers in the history of the world.
Marley dedicated his entire life to uplifting his people and inspiring them and educating nations of people on government and police persecution, economic and educational disparities and offering solutions as to how people of color can rise up against oppression and unify.
As of now, Bolt is an Olympic star who seems to be feeling himself more than any particular cause, but as the 29-year-old gets older and is removed from his Olympic grind maybe he will begin to use his celebrity to improve economic and social conditions in his country.
We have to wait for that progression to take its course. For now Bolt’s popularity and adulation comes from him holding world records at 100, 200 and the 4X100 relay and his non-threatening, non-intimidating but dominating approach to winning races.
“For me (the fun and competition) it goes together,” Bolt told NBC. “It goes together just playing with the fans, dancing, joking around, having fun. It goes together, competition. It all goes together for me.”
The track events are the most prestigious and watched events among people of color in the Olympics. Traditionally, it has been a stage for American athletes to shine and show their superiority. Bolt changed all of that .when he stormed the scene in 2008 and has been rewriting the history books and rising in stature as an international icon ever since.
He may not have the lifetime cache of a Bob Marley, but he's definitely a hit in Jamaica and around the world.