Comic books are filled with speedster superheroes who can outrun bullets or move so fast that they can travel through time. They run at hypersonic speeds or faster, fueled by magical pseudoscience the real world can’t compare with. Of course, these pen-drawn creations are embellishments of what the human body is actually capable of, and there are some real-life athletes out there who sprint with such velocity that it still wows the human mind. At the top of that list is Jamaica’s Usain Bolt.
When it comes to the fastest of the fast, only one person can hold the title, and as of now, Bolt is generally considered the fastest man alive, according to CNBC. He’s a sprinter, so don’t expect him to be winning many marathons, but in those short, explosive competitions, Bolt’s the best. He currently holds the world record in two different sprinting events, which he set in 2009 at the World Championships in Germany’s capital. Coming in at an insane 9.58 seconds in the 100-meter dash and 19.19 seconds in the 200-meter, he set the sprinting bar ridiculously high, and it might be a very long time before someone comes along and beats those scores.
Since he’s a world-renowned runner, you’d think you’d hear more about Bolt, but he’s seemed to have fallen further out of the spotlight with each passing year. Don’t worry, he’s still around. He’s just been busy.
His last Olympics were in 2016
Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man, has a history of crushing it at the Olympic Games. To date, Bolt has competed in four separate Olympics. Since the Games occur four years apart, it gives him 12 years as an Olympic sprinter, which means he remained one of the fastest sprinters in the world while aging and tearing up his body for over a decade. He has a total of eight gold medals, as is noted on his official Olympic profile. Oddly enough, he only placed fifth when he ran the 200-meter in 2004, but in each of the other games in which he participated, he took home the gold in the 100-meter and the 200-meter. The final two games, he also managed to help the four-man relay team take home the first place slot as well. Unfortunately, the human body and mind can only take competition of this caliber for so long, and Bolt ran in his last summer Olympics at the 2016 Games in Rio.
Bolt started his Olympic career at 17 years old and ended it at right around his 30th birthday, and he went out with a bang. In Rio, he walked away winning a gold in all three events in which he competed, just like he did four years previously. Technically, he’d won all three in 2008 as well, but he was forced to return his relay medal after one of his teammates had been caught doping — something Bolt obviously didn’t need.
He competed one last time in 2017
Even for the greatest of athletes, there finally comes a time when they have to hang up their equipment for good. Often it happens with retirement, occasionally it occurs with tragic deaths, but for Bolt, it was the former. In 2017, the great Usain Bolt, speedster of speedsters, retired, and his final competition wasn’t a pretty one.
Bolt had been competing in World Championships, as he tended to quite often, when he shocked the world for a final time — only on this occasion, the world’s awe was directed at the sprinter’s uncharacteristic loss, rather than another record-setting win. According to PBS, he’d won 11 World Championships up to this point, and nobody expected him to take anything but the first-place slot. Not only that, but Bolt had come in third, beaten by Justin Gatlin and Christian Coleman in the 100-meter race. The only other time he’d lost in this event was after being disqualified in 2011 because of a false start. In the team relay, Bolt did substantially worse, having barely crossed the finish line, and even then, he needed help to do it. To be fair, there’s a reason why Bold did so poorly in this event compared to his others, and it’s actually quite amazing that he managed to cross the finish line at all.
A final injury for the sprinter
Professional athletes are known for getting professional-grade injuries, and some of them battle more physical obstacles than others. As PBS notes, Bolt had struggled with scoliosis and other back problems throughout his career. His record is awe-inspiring, and even more so considering he’s achieved so much with a spinal deformity that has the potential to leave those afflicted with movement impairments, as Healthline explains, and on rare occasions, paralysis (via UCLA Health). But the night of his final competition, Bolt was plagued by a different injury.
While running the team relay in the 2017 Track and Field Championships, Bolt went down, and he went down hard. As SI Wire shows, Bolt had been pushing hard, gaining the lead, when he starts awkwardly hopping and shouting in pain. The world’s fastest man then fell to the ground. He refused to leave his final race without crossing the finish line though, and with the help of his teammates, they got the hobbling sprinter across it.
At first, the runner believed it was a simple hamstring cramp that struck at a most inopportune moment in his career, but he later learned he’d actually torn the muscle. Bolt told the Independent shortly after his injury that the competitors weren’t allowed to jog around and keep their muscles warm before competing, which has been known to lead to injuries in the athletic world for ages. With a worn body and having been "cold" during his races, it’s no wonder Bolt didn’t compete at his usual level.
Tried his hand at soccer
Bolt went into retirement after the 2017 Championships in London. It wasn’t solely because of the injuries he’d endured; it was something he’d been planning before he stepped foot on the track for that particular race. Bolt, of course, wouldn’t stay away from competition completely, however. Life can get a little boring when you’re not struggling for a win, if that’s what you’ve known for the majority of your existence. Bolt didn’t stay down long.
Just a year after his hamstring injury, he was trying out for and subsequently playing with Australia’s Central Coast Mariners soccer team, as SI explains. He played his first game in August 2018, and according to SB Nation, it didn’t go as well as hoped. He fumbled an easy goal and seemed a little awkward on the field, but his speed made him exceedingly difficult to cover.
The soccer career didn’t last as long as his previous athletic career, unfortunately. In November, the same year as his soccer debut, Bolt left the team over a contract dispute, and as of early 2019, the runner-turned-soccer player had said he was finally finished with sports. He was finally, actually, probably retired for good. Even without sports, Bolt had other passions to pursue.
He’s branched into music
Following passions is what being alive is all about, and there are plenty of professional athletes out there who’ve shown that first-hand as they branch out of their celebrity box and move on to other realms of fame and entertainment. We’ve seen professional fighters become actors, football players write books, and runners who start cutting music tracks. You know, like Usain Bolt.
Bolt’s music career really started in early 2021, though he was talking about it before then, when the former athlete dropped his first single with Nugent "NJ" Walker, according to Running Magazine. As of now, Bolt and his partner only have one single, titled "Living the Dream," but the world-class-athlete-turned-musician plans to make it big. He says they want to "dominate the Jamaican market" (via the Olympic website) and go on to international fame.
The former athlete’s genre of choice is Jamaican dancehall, kind of like dubstep, and despite wanting to reach musical stardom, Bolt isn’t rushing into it too quickly. He says he’s letting the music come as it pleases so it "comes out right" rather than trying to spam singles. This, the sprinter believes, is the key to succeeding, which he’s determined to do. He’s definitely "not just here joking around."