Today: June 21, 2024

Usain Bolt: The Movie

By the time this film is released on August 6, Usain Bolt’s drive to retain the 100m title – and claim to being the world’s fastest man – will be over.

By the time this film is released on August 6,
Usain Bolt’s drive to retain the 100m title – and claim to being the world’s
fastest man – will be over.
already stands as one of the greatest sprinters ever, and he may solidify his
‘legend’ – an overused word in any sport – status with his performance on
August 5th. Gael Leiblang’s
film shows you how he got there.

Bolt, a true celebrity in the world of
athletics, makes it look easy. He’s relaxed at the starting line, always ready
to strike a pose for the cameras, and is frequently so far ahead of his
competitors that he can ease off after 60m. Who can forget his storming
performance at the Beijing Olympics, where, half way through the race, he was
so far ahead he already started his celebration? Leiblang’s film reminds us of
all of the hard work that goes on behind the scenes, the hard days of training,
the pressures, the disappointments – most notably, that false start at
the World Championships in 2011.

Every good film needs a problem, some
sort of crux to posit the film around. For Leiblang, it is Bolt’s failure to
win in Daegu in 2011, having false started, and therefore been immediately
disqualified. We learn the history of how Bolt got there: his early skill as a
cricketer, his move to running and immediate success at a junior level, and his
meteoric rise to fame after his triple gold medal haul at Beijing. His run up
to Daegu looked good: he attended a number of races in Europe, being paid up to
$200,000 for each appearance, receiving all-star treatment wherever he went,
and comfortably winning each race.

It all fell apart in Daegu, however.
Rules had been changed a few years before, such that one false start led to
immediate disqualification. Bolt set off just a fraction too early and his race
was over. Bolt, clearly devastated, disappeared for a while, his agent
frantically searching the stadium for him. But when Bolt reappeared, he was
philosophical about his defeat, telling the press they weren’t going to get any
tears from him, and saying he was happy his patriot, and training partner, Yohan Blake had won. One senses,
however, that Bolt now feels he has something major to prove at London.

Bolt’s antics on the track can come
off at times as arrogance. He is always telling the world he’s number one,
laughing off his competitors chances. But the film humanises him, and he seems
to be just a happy, playful guy from a small town, who turned down offers from
American universities to stay close to his parents. He still trains in Jamaica,
and has surrounded himself with old friends, many of whom have now taken on
roles in his entourage. He trains hard, but as his coach says – he’s no
workaholic. Perhaps he is so good that he hasn’t needed to be. But after
disappointment in Daegu, one is left in no doubt that the hard work will be put
in as Bolt sets his sight on gold in London on August 5th.

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