It’s one of those iconic images that most of the world saw for the first time in the 2008 Olympics: Usain Bolt making his signature pose at the end of his winning 100-meter race. In that 100 meters he cruised to victory in world record time while slowing down at the end to play the showman and celebrate. It may have left a bad taste in the mouth for many viewers, as his antics appeared to be the actions of a real jerk. But, after three Olympics and three gold medals (he won the most recent just last night), the world is finding that Bolt’s actions are more happy-go-lucky than in-your-face.
He might be excused for being a bit of a jerk. After all, he is indisputably the world’s fastest man, the first ever to hold world records in both the 100 and 200 meters, as well as the 4 x 100 meter relay, and is the Olympic and World champion in all three events. However, even IOC president Jacques Rogge found Bolt’s 2008 showboating to be disrespectful.
Bolt claims that his celebrating is because he is just happy. Last night commentator Bob Costas’ Aug. 4 interview with Bolt aired. Costas, who drew criticism for comparing Bolt to Bob Marley, commented on the fun the global superstar seems to have with his talents, displaying showmanship and charisma, seeming to express authentic and irresistible joy in the competitions. Bolt said that he sees his running as a performance, which both he and the people who watch him enjoy. He likes to excite the fans by making them wonder what he’ll do next.
The so-called Lightning Bolt is not just a positive influence on the track. After his victories in the 2008 Olympics, Bolt, who is the highest paid athlete ever in track and field, donated $50,000 U.S. dollars to the children of China’s Sichuan province to help those harmed by the 2008 earthquake. He donates frequently to children’s charities, and the Usain Bolt Foundation is “dedicated to the legacy for happy children,” helping them live their dreams.
The audience must decide if Bolt is a happy-go-lucky showman or a big jerk, but no one can deny that watching him is exciting. There is always the potential for surprise when the Lightning Bolt steps on the track.