London: Usain Bolt is looking good wearing the mantle of a legend. It fits, as if he was born into it, and it kept growing on him as he developed from runner, to sprinter, to champion, to legend. By all accounts, that mantle could have been stitched in Savile Row.
About Savile Row: it is a street in Central London, in an area called Mayfair. It is referred to as the “golden mile of tailoring”. Posh, by all accounts, it houses some of the best tailors in the business who are renowned for their brand of “bespoke” tailoring. The word bespoke itself is rumoured to have originated from Savile Row. It means “spoken for”.
A bit like Usain Bolt, who wears the mantle of legend. It is bespoke, spoken for. Cut and stitched especially for him. No one else can fit into that. It is by order only.
Few have worn that mantle, though not for want of trying. In Bolt’s case it appears that he will be wearing it for some time.
With his convincing win in the 200m on Thursday night, Bolt has propelled the world of athletics into a new era. It is an age of fun, frolics, fan participation, where photographers become the photographed, where fans in the crowd are in line for a treat that extends beyond racing: high fives; a kiss or a hug; of soaring TV ratings; mind-numbing bursts of speed; quick times; big bucks; and, more importantly, a clear signal that the tainted sport of athletics has undergone a thorough cleansing.
Bolt has had a little bit of help from his friends to clean the garbage off the tracks. Yohan Blake has chipped in, along with Warren Weir, all Jamaicans. On Thursday night at the Olympic Park, almost everyone in the crowd had become Jamaican, so powerful was the force exuded by this trio as streaks of green and yellow darted down the tracks to claim a famous one-two-three for this little island nation that has become the world’s headquarters for quality sprinting.
Savile Row? Bespoke? Well, this is it.
So here we are, basking in the warmth of this new era, and it’s a good feeling. To see frenemies, not enemies, go head-to-head in a sprint; to recoil in shock as they laugh and joke amongst themselves, and their designated track minders as they wait for the starter’s orders; to see rivals training with the same coach; to gasp as they compliment each other’s skills and emphasise their individual influences.
What is this world coming to?
The finger is pointed squarely at Bolt. He is the man responsible for bringing in so much bonhomie and camaraderie.
Hang on a minute: Who’s complaining?
The friendship between Bolt and Blake (doesn’t that have a ring to it?) is proof that opposites do attract. Blake, shorter, chunkier, more explosive, is built like a tank. Bolt, on the other hand, is taller, sleeker and smoother when he runs, though a little gangly when he walks, is built like a plane that taxies down the runway, builds up speed and takes off into the skies. If his races were not curtailed by the finishing tape, then Bolt would probably ask us to fasten our seatbelts as we prepare for take-off.
Blake is the hard worker who is waiting for the payback from his efforts. Bolt puts in just enough as is needed to win and is currently reaping the huge dividends. Blake knows that his time will come and Bolt knows that too, but he cannot help but tease his friend to wait a little longer, since it never hurt anyone, as he goes about his business of preparing a pad for himself in the lofty heights that house the legends. Despite their differences, Bolt tries to emulate Blake, and vice-versa. It is a win-win situation for the two friends and for Jamaica.
“One love,” as Bolt says.
Blake is aware that achieving success isn’t as easy as Bolt makes it appear. Ever since the latter burst into the athletics scene, his career graph has resembled the flight path of a jumbo jet which operates at extreme heights and can be located only by the trail of smoke it leaves behind when viewed from the ground. The exhausts from Bolt’s engines tend to cloud up the tracks in the same vein.
For the moment, Blake is only too happy to ensure that, if anyone needs to go past Bolt, they will have to shove him out of the queue first. Meanwhile, he goes about his business waiting for the day when he will walk down his more celebrated friend and rival to the finish line, just as he did in the pre-Olympic trials at Kingston.
Ironically, for the rest of the world, Blake is the man to beat, for touching Bolt is currently out of the question. It’s almost a case of going through the secretary to get to the CEO; hate to do it, but it must be done, for want of a better analogy.
Bolt is racing on another planet; it’s as if his spikes have propellers hitched on to them. Blake is the astronaut in training. If the old order does give way to the new, it would appear that Blake alone has the weapons to topple Bolt from his throne. If it does happen, then it would be the friendliest coup that athletics has ever recorded.