Hindustan Times (Delhi)

Bolt the clear winner in race of all-time Olympic greats

4 9 2 23 3 2

- N Ananthanar­ayanan sportsdesk@hindustant­imes.com

NEW DELHI: The biggest worry going into the Rio Olympics was whether the negativity would consume the ultimate show on earth. In the end, the organisers and the world’s top sports officials could breathe a sigh of relief as the stars aligned beautifull­y in the Brazilian coastal city.

Traditiona­lly, comparison­s in sports are not made between eras, but nothing beats repeat winners when it comes to whipping up fan frenzy and the four men who achieved that produced performanc­es for the ages. Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Ashton Eaton and Mo Farah made it a rare occasion where four all-time greats shone brightly in one Games. It left one asking the big question: Who is the greatest of them all?

Phelps had already gone into retirement as the most successful Olympic champion ever in London. The ‘Baltimore Bullet’, endowed with an astonishin­g body for swimming, hit the low of arrest for driving under the influence and then spent time on rehab but was still ready to dish it out to his young rivals, at 31.

In the end, Phelps put on some show. His sensationa­l second leg of a relay brought US storming into the lead and an eventual romp to victory. He claimed the 200m individual medley for a record fourth Games in a row, and then regained the 200m butterfly, the one that got away from him in London.

British distance runner Farah achieved a sensationa­l 5,000-10,000 double-double that is unlikely to be repeated. Winning the double was unthinkabl­e even in London, considerin­g the team tactics of Kenyan and Ethiopian rivals.


But the Somalia-born proved his tactics of staying back and then producing blistering final laps were still durable. His 10,000m win was more special as he was tripped mid race but got up to triumph.

Olympic decathlon champions are regarded as the greatest athletes on earth, and Eaton not just retained the title but equalled the Olympic record. The US world record holder and winner of the last two world titles showed nerves of steel and ran the fourth-fastest time in the final event — 1500m — to clinch victory.

Eaton, 28, emulated Bob Mathias and Daley Thompson, the only others to win back-toback decathlon gold medals. Bolt played down his lightning pose as he accomplish­ed a sensationa­l triple-triple by winning the 100m, 200m and the 4x100m relay.

The Jamaican, who turned

30 on Sunday, signed off by declaring that he was

“the greatest” like Pele and Muhammad Ali.

Down the years, Bolt has been so dominant he could jog to the finish while his rivals franticall­y tried to come second best. Bolt has not lost an Olympic or World Championsh­ips sprint race for eight years — the only miss being the 2011 Worlds where he was disqualifi­ed in the 100m for a false start.

The greatest sprinter in history fought a hamstring injury and his timings didn’t come close to his world marks. Still, rivals Justin Gatlin and rising Canadian star Andre de Grasse found the Jamaican too hot as he matched Finn distance great Paavo Nurmi and US sprinter-jumper Carl Lewis with nine gold medals.

In the end, Bolt wins the race for the greatest of them all because of how he strode the Olympics as its biggest ambassador. The sprints are the showcase events of the Games, but are also the most tarnished by doping. Bolt not just kept winning, he wowed the audience and gave them the biggest reason to keep faith in athletics with an unblemishe­d record. TOTAL MEDALS




Gold Silver Bronze



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