LONDON -- Usain Bolt did not want to be a mere legend. He wanted to be a living legend. His goal was to walk around Kingston, Jamaica, mix music at nightclubs, eat yams at his restaurant all while enjoying his status as mythic hero.
Typically, legends are usually dead or old. But Bolt does things no human has ever done. Astounding things.
He turned a footrace into a piece of performance art Thursday inside Olympic Stadium. When the stopwatch struck 19.32 seconds, Bolt had captured his prized piece of immortality. He became the first man to win the 100- and 200-meter dashes at successive Olympics.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Bolt won the sprints and anchored the 400 relay in world-record time. In London, he has not lowered his records, but hes 2 for 2 in gold medals, with the relay to come Saturday.
In the 200, he unfurled his endless legs from the blocks, drove hard and turned the curve into a slingshot. He thundered down the home straightaway with a lead he would not relinquish, even with Yohan Blake threatening from Lane 4. From Lane 7, Bolt glanced at Blake several times, because he felt a twinge in his lower back and figured he better keep an eye on his training partner.
Three strides before the finish line, Bolt stole another look, knew he was going to win and eased up. He raised index finger to lips to silence those who doubted his work ethic, start technique, fitness and desire.
I am now a living legend, basking in my glory, Bolt said.
He makes these declarations with an implied wink, the way Muhammad Ali used to. Afterward, Bolt was asked to compare himself to Ali, Pélé, Michael Jordan and Bob Marley. All in the same sentence.
Jordan was the greatest in his sport, and Im the greatest in mine, he said. Ill let people decide that. To me, Im a legend.
There is a reason Bolt has accomplished a unique double-double. He is unique. He is 6-5 and his 9-foot stride devours the ground. But sprinting is also about pushing your feet off the track as quickly as possible. Bolt has surprising tempo for a big man. He would be a decent tap dancer.
Steven Francis, coach of the rival MVP track club in Kingston, said if Bolt, 25, had been born in the United States hed be a point guard in the NBA. Good thing he was born in Jamaica, a nation of track and field experts, where his cricket coaches knew his speed was special even on an island of exceptional sprinters.
Hes not poetry in motion. Theres too much of him. Hes more like ska in motion, blaring horns, a rousing chorus. With those long arms and legs, he will never be a picture of precision, but as long as he doesnt screw up his start, his opponents like the 5-9 Blake will always have to chase him down.
Bolt is a spectator sport, and not just for the nine seconds it takes him to run 100 meters or the 19 seconds it takes him to run half a lap. He brings a sense of anticipation to the track. You could feel the crowd heating to a full boil.
He tries to top his pre-race standup routine as well as his records. For the 200 he gave a Queen Elizabeth wave stiff hand moving mechanically as spectators caught on and laughed with him.
Then theres the encore. This time, he did pushups instead of a somersault. He grabbed a photographers camera and shot pictures of Blake. He hugged complete strangers. He vogued in his archers pose, shooting a lightning bolt into the sky.