By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Friday, July 22nd, the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt, proved any news of his demise was premature. Coming off a hamstring injury that sidelined the Jamaican superstar sprinter for one month, Bolt stormed back into the Rio Olympics’ gold medal conversation winning the 200-meter dash at the London Anniversary Games.
Bolt is the 100-meter and 200-meter world record holder, and with his Jamaican teammates, also holds the world record in the 4x100m relay. He enters the 2016 Rio Olympics as the back-to-back reigning Olympic champion in all three events, sweeping all three in both the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Games.
Just a month ago, it appeared that Bolt’s chance to defend his Olympic crown would be in jeopardy. After winning the 100m semifinals at the Jamaican Olympic trials, Bolt was forced to withdraw from the finals after experiencing discomfort in his hamstring. To the shock of track and field fans around the world, it was later discovered that Bolt had suffered a Grade 1 hamstring tear and his status for the Rio Olympics seemed in doubt.
After a month of recuperation, all eyes were on Bolt as he made his return on Friday to the same stadium where he took three gold medals in 2012. And after 19.89 seconds, Bolt put all fears about his health to rest, storming to victory in the 200m.
Bolt’s performance not only allayed fears of track and field fans worldwide, but also the concerns of Jamaican Olympic officials who were criticized in some circles for including Bolt on the squad despite his failure to complete his country’s Olympic trials.
One of those critics was Bolt’s nemesis and main threat to his defense of his Olympic crown, American Justin Gatlin. Gatlin, winner of the 100m gold medal at the 2004 Athens Games told the media Bolt would not have received preferential treatment if he were American. “He’s injured and he has a medical pass,” Gatlin said. “That’s what his country does. Our country doesn’t do that.”
Bolt’s return to form sets the stage for the much-anticipated confrontation between the two arch-rivals. If all goes as planned, the two will lock horns at the men’s 100m sprint final on Sunday, August 14th at the Olympic Stadium (Engenhão) in Deodoro.
Correction: This article has been corrected since it was originally published on July 25th to clarify that Usain Bolt holds the 4x100m relay world record, not the 4x400m.