Few athletes in the world have dominated their sport quite like Usain Bolt. The Jamaican legend is known for his utter supremacy over the 100 and 200m sprint. For the best part of a decade, he was the only show in town at Track and Field events, dominating with consummate ease. In fact, it would be hard to find another athlete who was quite so far ahead of the competition!

Bolt, though, brought life to the athletics world through more than his incredible sporting prowess. His exceptional larger-than-life personality and immense confidence made him easy to love. Free from the stony-faced arrogance that has hobbled other athletes public image, Bolt was different.

Relaxing and easy-going, he would just as commonly be seen interacting with race-day officials as he would be dancing on the line before going on to win. If you watched Bolt in his prime, though, you would realise that for all the bravado and all of the fun…this was a guy who was serious about success.

In fact, go through showpiece photos of his career and you’ll find many a photo of Bolt racing by his stern-faced competitors wearing a massive smile!

Yet it wasn’t always this easy – at one stage in his career, Bolt wasn’t the undisputed king of the track and field world. We’ve seen numerous victories, world records, and spectacular settings. 

What, then, was his moment? Every major athlete has them. The moments in time and history where they are immortalized as one of the best of all-time. For Bolt, then, when did it arrive?

What was the event that turned him into the G.O.A.T? When did the Jamaican go from being an impressive prospect to the undisputed champion of his athletic field?

The Rise of the G.O.A.T 

Like many of the best in the world, we need to go quite some way back to find that key moment. And with Bolt, we’re going back nearly two decades…to 2002.

Back then, Bolt was a 15-year-old who had shown immense promise in domestic and international competition. At 15, he was hitting incredible times in major competitions – he was even beating athletes four to five years his senior. In 2002, though, we seen the beginning of what would become an incredible legend.

Let’s head back to the 2002 World Junior Championships, where Bolt was able to claim a maiden international win in the 200m Final. He done so with a time of 20.61 seconds – the youngest Gold Medal in the event of all-time. And despite claiming massive nerves before the race, it was a clutch burst at the end of the event that took Bolt to the top.

Indeed, that one moment in 2002 has become one of the most iconic of his career, and set the tone for what was to come. His dominating 6ft5 frame gave him a genuine chance at just about any time, sure. But there have been many tall runners – few of them could match the achievements of this young Jamaican.

So, was 2002 his key moment?

Well, it was one of them. And while his flagship wins in 2008 and 2009 might really set the bar for the G.O.A.T. himself, this wasn’t his crowning glory. For Bolt to be considered the best of all-time, it would take even more than his world-record setting pace back in Beijing in the 2008 Summer Olympics. These were hugely impressive moments, sure…but the moment that made Bolt the legend he is today? 2015.

We need to head to 2015. Why? Because this was one of the most challenging and demanding periods of the great man’s career. Coming into the 2015 season, Bolt was beset by major injuries that had curtailed his 2014 season. He missed around nine weeks of training, leaving him heading into the remaining of the 2014 calendar out of condition. It meant that heading into the 2015 Championships, he had run just a handful of races.

His performances, too, were simply out of kilter with what we had come to expect from Bolt. He was finishing in poor positions across much of 2015, with poor performances in the likes of America, China, the Czech Republic, Jamaica and Brazil. Heading into the 2015 Championships, he was marked as the 20th fastest sprinter in the world. 20th!

It was an unprecedented drop, and it left fans worrying that the glory days were over. He looked weak, unable to compete at the top, and struggling to match-up with the newcomers to the scene. The name that was most commonly mentioned as the usurper to his throne, then, was Justin Gatlin.

Return of the Gat 

Gatlin was another 100m and 200m specialist who had a wonderful trophy haul of his own. Entering the late peak of his career, Gatlin expected to rise back to the top after success in the 2005 World Championships winning both the 100m and 200m. With Bolt looking weak, the American seen his chance…

Having been banned for four years after a testosterone-related ban in 2006, he had returned in 2010 ready to compete at the top level once again. Having seen Bolt destroy his records and leave him chasing his tail, Gatlin was desperate to try and make up for lost time.

Indeed, in 2014 he had hit seasonal bests of 9.77 for the 100m and 19.68 for the 200m. It left him in wonderful competitive form and looked far ahead of the out-of-sorts Bolt. Heading the 2015 season with world-leading times, he declared that “I AM GOING TO WIN!” on live TV with TMZ Sports.

As the season progressed, though, Bolt fans were worried that Gatlin was right. Bolt, who used to breeze the 10s mark for the 100m, was now struggling to beat the 10s count – often doing so in a fraction of the second. This was way below his usual times, and further fuelled the idea that he was out of sorts.

Indeed, Gatlin headed into the 2015 Championships with seasonal bests of 9.74s and 19.57s for the 100m and 200m sprints. He was in better form, and better shape – so what would happen when these two titans would meet in the 2015 showdown?

The Big Day Arrives

For Bolt, this was the first genuine challenge he had faced in years. Ever since his last major defeat in 2007, he had been more or less invincible since Beijing. This was comfortably the worst he’d ever looked at such a high level in his career….

When it matters, though, the Bolt becomes the GOAT. And on the 2rd August, 2015, Bolt decided that it was time to bring the thunder back.

He arguably ran the best 100m race ever seen in the history of track and field athletics. Really, watch it for yourself here – this is the kind of thing that should really end all disputes about GOATs. Just watch.


Usain, whilst challenged by Gatlin all the way, comes out looking pristine. Even his celebratory sprint afterward showed the same burst, acceleration, and charisma that we associate with him. This was it. This was the moment.

A season of smack talk (mostly from Gatlin).

A season of coming, at best, second.

A season of watching Gatlin smash you to pieces and leave you in the dust most races.

A season where your greatness could be gone forever, written off as an anomaly.

Despite struggling, Bolt ran a time of 9.79 seconds. Despite being nowhere near his peak, despite suffering through injury and loss of form, he hit a 9.79s run. Just think about that for a moment.

Then came the 200m Final. Bolt said it himself – he wasn’t going to lose. This was HIS event. Want proof that this is HIS event? Then watch the 200m event happen now.

Look how far ahead Bolt is at the end – it’s like a dad racing his kid son’s!

The pace, the acceleration, the ability to maintain that top speed – it’s all that we could want to see for Bolt. After to much stress, so much worry, and so much doubt, he ran two of the best races in his career. Up against the best opponent he’d ever faced in Gatlin. A finishing time of 19.55s gave him one of the best runs in history.

And what came next? Bolt went on to achieve success in the 2016 Rio Olympics, winning the 100, the 200, and the 4x100 races. Not sure if Usain Bolt is the GOAT? Think again. in the clutch moments when it really mattered? He stepped up in a way that few, if any, athlete has in the history of the sport. 

So, you want to see the GOAT? He’s from Jamaica, and he’s called Usain Bolt. 

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Peyton Dove

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