London 2012 Olympics: Why Usain Bolt is bigger than Michael Phelps
At the London 2012 Olympics, Michael Phelps is respected, but Usain Bolt is beloved for his flair and style.
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And Bolt is the best in the world at track's blue-ribbon event. "There is something about the 100-meter sprint that is iconic," says Robert Fox, who has come to the Olympic Stadium with his brother and father. "It's the gold standard."Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Week Two of the Olympics
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Not too long ago, the same was true in the US. Think back to 1988. Was America buzzing more about sprinter Carl Lewis or swimmer Matt Biondi? Biondi, who won five gold medals at the Seoul Games was respected, certainly, but Lewis was beloved.
And this is a measure of Phelps's impact on the American Olympic landscape. He has flipped the Olympic calendar. Now, the first week of the Olympics is America's "gold standard," and track has become a second act.
For the rest of the world, though, the image of eight men sprinting down the track at speeds that cars find only in third gear is still one of the most awesome in all sport. "He's the fastest man on the planet," says Gus Guntrip, Jack's father, simply.
And then there's the Swedish handball team.
After winning the 100 meters, Bolt said he would celebrate by taking it easy and getting some sleep that night. The 200 meters was still ahead, after all. That night, though, he posted a picture of himself with three members of the Swedish women's handball team, amid media reports that he celebrated with them for 1-1/2 hours.
He's also repeatedly insisted that he wants to get a tryout for Manchester United, England's most successful soccer team during the past two decades.
"There's an air of unpredictability about Usain Bolt," says Ian Cooper, a teenager watching the track and field with this family.
One minute he's false starting at the world championships and losing to compatriot Yohan Blake in the Olympic trials and being written off as out of shape and unfocused, the next he's winning the 100 meters in Olympic-record time and playfully yelling to Blake after the race that the upcoming 200 is his "pet race," and "I'm not going to let him win."
At the post-race press conference, he makes faces at the press, he explains his pre-race antics in great detail, he asks the press not to be too judgmental because there were vegetables in the McDonald's chicken wrap he ate for lunch, so "it was healthy."
If the Olympic athletes were to produce a yearbook, Bolt would be "Athlete Most Likely to Pull a Practical Joke on the Moderator."
"He's just a showman," Fox says.
And so far, he has never failed to deliver at the Olympics.