Usain Bolt after winning the 200m at the London 2012 Olympic Games (Getty Images) © Copyright
Feature London, UK

“I am a living legend; bask in my glory”

You will all know the celebrated last words of the Emperor Vespasian – "I think I am in the process of becoming a god". Even on his deathbed, Vespasian was a man much given to irony, whereas the full-of-life Usain Bolt has no need of such conceits.

Bolt, 25, had already announced prior to these Games of the XXX Olympiad that it was his intention to become a legend. And so it has come to pass.

He thought three gold medals in Beijing 2008 were not sufficient, nor even adding various World titles and superlative World records of 9.58sec for 100 metres, and 19.19sec for 200 metres. But even without the 4x100 metres relay here in London 2012 to cement his desire, he has entered the pantheon of athletics gods with this unprecedented double double; twice winning the Olympic 100 and 200 metres, with extraordinary times.

If we were in any doubt, he told us at his press conference that he was either 'a legend,’ or, 'a living legend,’ about ten times.

We could not but agree with him.

"It was a good race," he began, "the key is always to run as good a corner (bend) as fast as possible, but if anything I ran the corner a bit too fast, and got a strain in my back. I just kept my eyes on him (nodding to silver medallist Yohan Blake sat beside him), to make sure I stayed in front of him, he’s what kept me going."

The finger to his lips at the finish he said, "was for all those people who said I was going to win, that I was going to be a legend. Well, they can stop talking now. I’m a living legend.

"After Yohan beat me at the (Jamaican) Trials, a lot of people were doubting me. That’s good, because you find out who your true friends are, and there are always people who support you. It was good to come out here, and show my true fans I am the best."

"We train together, we push each other hard. But Yohan beating me was a wake-up call. He’s really pushed me this season, and kept me on my toes. I give thanks for that."

"I said to Yohan Blake, round about oh-ten (2010), you came around at the wrong time, 'cause this is my time, these next two years are mine. After that, you can go on and do what you gotta do, but these two years are mine. So I had to show him."

There were questions about football and cricket, which he answered with the usual jest and panache, naming the players in both sports he thought he could emulate, pointing out particularly that the current great West Indies’ player Chris Gayle had fallen to his bowling.

And there were the inevitable questions about Rio and retirement. "Rio? That’ll be a hard mission. I’ll be 30 years old, and these guys (Blake and Weir) will be 26. They’re training and running well, and there’s a lot more talent coming through. I’m not thinking about retirement, I’m still enjoying myself, I love this sport, and I’m going to have fun for the rest of the season and then sit down and decide what to do next".

Bolt admits that he probably wasn’t 100% this week, proof of which, one supposes was the relatively slow times, compared to his World records. "I was a little bit off, but I said before that if was 90% I could still do what I set out to do. And I did it."

After David Rudisha’s magnificent show in the 800 metres earlier in the evening, with a World record of 1:40.91, having led all the way, talk had turned to the possible outcome of a match between the Kenyan and the Jamaican over an intermediate distance. As on so many previous occasions, Bolt had already excluded the idea of moving up to 400 metres, but he was obviously as impressed as everyone else by Rudisha’s run.

Told that Rudisha had gone through 500 and 600 metres in 61sec and 1min 14sec respectively, Bolt grimaced, and said, "I’ve done 60sec for 500 metres. I think that if I trained, I could beat him over 400 metres, but anything further, forget it."

The press conference culminated just before midnight, but Bolt demanded that his microphone be switched back on; "One more thing," he began; and just in case we hadn’t heard it the first nine times, he reiterated.

"I am a living legend; bask in my glory". And when the laughs had subsided, with impeccable timing, he added, "and if I don’t see this in all your newspapers tomorrow, I’m never gonna give another press conference for you guys again."

Well, Usain, here’s our contribution.

The overall result for the 200 metres was another tour de force for Jamaican sprinting. As easy as 1-2-3, in fact. First Bolt, second Blake, and no disrespect to Warren Weir, third was a man that few people outside track cognoscenti had ever heard of.

And Weir isn’t even in the relay squad - "I’ll be watching from the stands," he said. And though without the injured former World record holder, Asafa Powell, Bolt says he thinks another world record is a possibility, with the caveat, "you never know with relays, the baton, the changeovers."

Victory in the upcoming 4x100 metres relay can only cement Bolt’s claim to glory, to history, to legend, and, with a nod to the late Emperor, to the status of a god.

Pat Butcher for the IAAF