x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

A deliberate Bolt

Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt gave his competitors a modest head start in a 200-metre race - and then blew by them all anyway. This is the story of the tortoise and the hare, retold in a very different way.

It's a cautionary tale for the ages: the story of the hare and the tortoise has, across generations, served as a warning against the perils of complacency and overconfidence.

But if you're the fastest man on the planet, you're allowed to be the exception. On Friday night, Usain Bolt ran the fourth fastest 200 metres in history to win gold at the World Athletic Championships in Daegu, South Korea. And he did it by holding back.

Last weekend, world record holder Bolt lost his 100-metre title to Yohan Blake after being disqualified for a false start. It was not a mistake he was about to repeat when the 200-metre final came around. In fact, the Jamaican sprinter essentially allowed the rest of the field a head start, being the last off the blocks. But unlike the arrogant hare in Aesop's fable, he didn't allow complacency to defeat him.

"It was so tight," he said, "that I had to be conservative and run a more technical race." Those words would have hurt his rivals as much as seeing him flash past them at the finish line.

Bolt's 19.40 second finish was the fourth-fastest time in the history of the race. Only Bolt himself, and legendary American sprinter Michael Johnson, have ever run faster.

"I am still the best," Bolt said on Friday. Cocky, perhaps. But even his rivals, who are no tortoises themselves, would humbly agree.