Grease Light­ning, the Great­est

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page - Bo­ria Ma­jum­dar

Fan: the only con­stant loy­alty in hu­man life. In this age of in­for­ma­tion flow where space and time turns ir­rel­e­vant, one starts to be­come a sports fan at 5-6. And one turns into a com­mit­ted fol­lower even be­fore touch­ing dou­ble dig­its. For the next 70-80 years of his or her life, this is the only loy­alty that stays on.

You can have af­fairs, a bro­ken mar­riage, chang­ing tastes of food and cloth­ing, evolv­ing views on pol­i­tics. But a Usain Bolt fan at 5 will re­main a Bolt fan at 80. So much so that 50 years down the line, he or she won’t take a back­seat in ar­gu­ing that Bolt, come what may, re­mains the great­est.

Yes, there was Carl Lewis in 1984, 1988 and 1992. And yes, Lewis has won mul­ti­ple Olympic gold medals. But Bolt, in ev­ery sense, has eclipsed ev­ery other ath­lete. With one fin­ger on his lip, Bolt could turn the whole Olympic sta­dium quiet, and with one lightening pose — like at the end of his last in­di­vid­ual race on Satur­day night — he sent spec­ta­tors in the stands to rup­tures. He cap­ti­vated us all and did so time and again. And that’s how was nur­tured a loy­alty like no other.

As Bolt bent down to start the last race of his life, time had come to a stand­still. The re­sult was of lit­tle con­se­quence to many of us. Won or lost, Bolt was al­ready the de­clared cham­pion, and each and ev­ery one of us wanted to hold on to those 9-some­thing sec­onds. Each time the clock ticked passed a sec­ond, a lump formed in a mil­lion throats world­wide.

Bolt was one step closer to never race again. Each strain of mus­cle and each lunge for­ward to make up for that poor start brought to mind frames of achieve­ment from Bei­jing to Lon­don and to Rio. He had made up for poor starts all his life and he will again, we thought. Just as the run­ners reached the last 10 me­tres, it seemed he had it cov­ered. It was Bolt ter­ri­tory.

But not this time. Even the fi­nal thrust wasn’t enough. But did it re­ally mat­ter? The win­ner Justin Gatlin wasn’t even be­ing shown by the TV cam­eras. The crowd wasn’t cel­e­brat­ing him ei­ther. It was all Bolt as he started one fi­nal lap of the Lon­don Sta­dium. From meet­ing his par­ents to do­ing in­ter­views to that fi­nal moment when he did that light­ning pose, the great­est show­man had all his fans glued to him.

This is one loy­alty that will never be taken away from us. More pow­er­ful than na­tion­al­ism, this is what makes mod­ern sport the global mar­keters’ dream. Brand Bolt, de­spite the third place fin­ish, is at its most pow­er­ful. In fact, his ‘loss’ has added sheen to his le­gend, now that we know there is a tinge of mor­tal­ity to his im­mor­tal­ity. He, too, can lose. Don­ald Brad­man had scored a duck in his last in­nings. Diego Maradona fin­ished sec­ond best to Ger­many with An­dreas Brehme net­ting the penalty in 1994. Roger Fed­erer and Michael Phelps have both lost on oc­ca­sions. Bolt has too in the fi­nal in­di­vid­ual race of his life.

But just like the other greats men­tioned here, Bolt, too, will go down in his­tory as the great­est. At least to his le­gion of fans world­wide. And this com­mu­nity will for­ever re­main a con­stant.

He'll never run out

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