In all the various “Greatest Sportsmen” lists debated over the years there is normally common agreement when it comes to the top. Muhammad Ali was and will always be “The Greatest.” Pele often features second and then you can take your pick from Maradona, Jack Nicklaus, Michael Schumacher, Roger Federer, Michael Jordan, Don Bradman and Michael Phelps. You can now add to that list Usain Bolt. Let’s explore three lists. Is he the greatest track and field star of all time? The great Paavo Nurmi has won more, as has Carl Lewis, but to win the 100 metres, a supposedly young man’s discipline, in three successive Games wins it for me. Lewis, of course, added to his haul by competing in the long jump.
Is Bolt the greatest Olympian of all time? Not statistically. Apart from the above athletes Phelps has a strong argument with his 23 golds, but he competes in a sport where you can win 8 golds at one Games, as he did in Beijing. Bolt can win three at one Games, as he did in both Beijing and London, but the 100m is the blue riband event of the whole Games.
So where, therefore, does he stand in the all-time list? This is completely subjective but for me 3rd behind Ali and Pele. Why so high? Because he hasn’t just delivered on the track. He has delivered off it as well. He is track and field right now, and has been for quite some time. If he ever failed a dope test (which he won’t) the sport may as well turn off the lights and padlock the door. He means that much to a sport that has been almost single-handedly saved by him over the years. Bolt is also the most charismatic sportsman since, well, “The Greatest” himself. He gets bums off seats, even bums that do not enjoy sport. You cannot keep your eyes off him. And so Bolt receives the bronze medal in the all-time sporting list. It’s an unusual colour for him but one he may just accept on this occasion.