Like Beijing a year ago, Berlin became his bolt-hole, but the Jamaican is not one for hiding. In cutting back on the world records he posted in the 100m and 200m at the Olympic Games, the rippling Usain Bolt confirmed his status as a distinguished, if hardly shy and retiring, gentleman, a figure who has been prone to keeping his promises of late. Bolt's 100m record of 9.69secs set in China dropped to 9.58 in Germany. His 200m record of 19.30secs got rounded down to 19.19secs.
How he manages such astonishing times has left several fabled figures dumbfounded, including the American sprinter Michael Johnson, who sat as a television pundit these past two august Augusts, watching the 200m record he posted at the 1996 Olympic Games lowered twice, apparently with minimal fuss. His 400m mark of 43.18secs set a decade ago must surely be in grave danger of withering away if or when Bolt increases his range.
Like a baton between two bullets, Johnson's golden shoes have been passed on. Bolt is running faster in his. Wherever Bolt goes from here, it will probably involve hoisting himself into a pit of sand or sprinting an extra 200m on the track. Speculation of an attempt at the long jump and 400m in the London Olympic Games in 2012 should not prompt an incredulous gasp. Mike Powell, the American who deprived Carl Lewis of gold at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo by almost jumping out of the pit with an effort of 8.95m, has expressed a belief that Bolt's ground speed could carry him beyond nine metres.
The technique of the long jump in establishing a formidable stride pattern and hitting the launch spot with maximum acceleration to achieve the most piercing trajectory could perhaps be problematic. Boasting such an awesome gait and standing as imposing as an NBA basketball player at 6ft 5in, Bolt would hardly be taking a leap of faith. Perhaps Bolt will attempt only one new event, perhaps he will try none. Wherever he goes from here could have a lasting impact upon the landscape of athletics.
At 23, he has three years left to prepare for the Olympic Games. Depending on how the timetable at the Games in London are structured, Bolt could envisage attempting the 100m, 200m or 400m. He could stride out in all three. There are two sprint relays that could complement the long jump. When he deems himself done with sprinting, just like Lewis did in the autumn of his career, he could focus solely on the long jump.
There are a few permutations. Bolt seems to have the work ethic. And he has time on his side. He will be 26 when the next Olympics come into view. He can use next year's Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India, and the next World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, in 2011, as a practice run for London, a city that could see him threaten the four gold medals achieved by Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, and Lewis at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.
Owens' granddaughter presented Bolt with gold in Berlin. If Bolt remains healthy, he can pursue a haul that Zeus would marvel at. There remain two enlightening sides to the character. There is Bolt the showman, and there is Bolt the sprinter. Both work as harmoniously as his sprinting. He carries an element of unpredictability which is always good for sales. That he is plying his trade in the blue-chip event is fortunate for his sport.
Lamine Diack, the president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, has said that Bolt may be the world's most famous sportsman, a rival perhaps to Tiger Woods. For his country, he is a tourism dream. Reports suggests that with Bolt, what you see is what you get. His posturing prior to the 100m final in Beijing did not meet with the liking of Jacques Rogge, the IOC president. Surely the bravado is worthwhile. He is hardly making some idle boast when he starts jiving on the start line of muttering into TV cameras.
The world's fastest man is defined by reggae and history. Bolt departs Germany with a profile bigger than Bob Marley, a figure he feels he rivals in Jamaican folklore. He breaks records with as much ease as Marley penned songs. It may seem like a trivial aside, but he also won gold in the 4x100m relay, ensuring Jamaica finished three behind the US in the gold medals' table. Berlin sang Happy Birthday to Bolt as he collected gold for the 200m. On the periphery of this love-in, a championship broke out, in the course of which the UAE contingent spent less time on the track than Berlino the Bear, the event's mascot.
Ali Obaid Shirook abandoned a 400m hurdles heat halfway around the track because of a suspected muscle tear in a thigh. Omar Juma al Salfa was worthy of an honourable mention in the 200m. He became the first sprinter from the UAE to reach the second round of the heats, after clocking 20.94secs. To put the gulf into some sort of perspective, his personal best of 20.72secs is 1.53 slower than Bolt's world record.
Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele dominated the men's 5,000m and 10,000m to repeat his double of Beijing. South Africa's Caster Semenya claimed the women's 800m, but the IAAF is awaiting results of a gender test after she posted a time of 1min 55.54secs, the fastest in the world this year. Semenya, 18, apparently did not want the medal. The results of the test will not be known for several weeks. There were no such issues surrounding the sport's most illuminated figure. With a stride as smooth as a Caribbean sunset, the streamlined Bolt has it in him to improve on greatness.
It is all there in front of him, in every sense. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org