Last year in the same stadium where Usain ran his last individual race tonight, I watched him run a pedestrian time (by his standards) in his favoured sprint event, the 200m. Then I looked at the awe filled faces around me after he had won less emphatically than he was accustomed to. Old and young faces of various shades wore identical expressions.The after glow illuminated those same faces that perhaps had more in common with the grey of London than their sunny disposition . They had seen the fastest man in recorded history do the inevitable. Winning was never in doubt. I left the stadium with a sense of an ending. I had watched him run well enough to win another race and it couldn’t last forever. Not long after that night, he added three more gold medals to his tally of nineteen (Olympic and World championship). A flawless resume, untainted by missed or failed drug tests. It was time to go. The body knows best. But in some peculiar way, the fact that he didn’t win tonight will endear him to the world even more so than a 20th gold medal might have done. We finally got to see him face defeat in a major championship final and he handled that adversary with grace. How we lose is just as significant as how we win.
We like our superheroes to have some semblance of weakness to remind us that they do exist on the same surface of the earth that we bestride. Father time is krypton’s leveler restoring balance and the order of things. I’m glad that I am a witness to his boundary breaking efforts. He kept the sport of Track & Field Athletics alive at the worst of times and I’m sure there will be a lot of new borns named Usain in Jamaica for years to come. In defeat he remains very much a champion of a medal far more illustrious than gold. He won the hearts and minds of the people. Common folk from all walks of life. He will remain the people’s junk food loving and living champion. He leaves the track as arguably the greatest sporting phenomenon of my lifetime.