Usain Bolt entered London as perhaps the most famous individual competitor not named Michael Phelps. He set an Olympic record with a blazing 9.63 seconds in the men's 100-meter final to reclaim his place on the throne of the world's fastest man. And he did so after a mediocre two seasons in which he lost to fellow countryman Yohan Blake in the Jamaican trials ... twice.
But what will elevate him to legendary status would be to capture gold in the 200-meter as well, an event that may lack the high drama and cache but figures as a significant event nevertheless.
Bolt -- still just 25 years old -- has said that his two defeats to Blake in June woke him up. "Yohan gave me a wakeup call," he said. "I had to show the world I'm the greatest."
What we know right now is this: Bolt is a 'once in a generation' type of talent and arguably the greatest sprinter ever. But what remains unknown is whether he can prove himself the Michael Phelps of track and field: a talent so vast that it almost defies comprehension.
In addition to the 200, where he is also the defending Olympic champion, Bolt plans to run in Jamaica's 4x100-meter relay team and possibly in its 4x400-meter as well. Whereas Bolt came into Beijing as a virtual unknown, the pressure of being expected not just to win events but to dominate them has been mounting with every passing day.
The weight of expectation has been an ongoing trend in the 2012 games, with mixed results for high-profile athletes and teams. Phelps started out in London by succumbing to Ryan Lochte in his first race and then failing to medal in the 400 IM before making another remarkable run as expected. Team USA basketball nearly lost to Lithuania in the preliminary round after LeBron James told reporters he thought this team would beat the 1992 Dream Team, which had a 38-point average margin of victory in Barcelona. Then there was highly decorated American gymnast Jordyn Wieber, who failed even to qualify for the women's all-around final.
While these examples may not be totally relevant to Bolt, they are at least worthy of consideration as the 6-foot-5 speedster approaches the absolute pinnacle of sprinting. In successfully defending his 100-meter title, he became just the third sprinter ever to do so, but given his dominance, the world expects to see more.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or ask me questions about anything sports-related at @Schultz_Report. Tune in tonight to CBS, at 7:30 ET for my appearance on "ET" discussing Michael Phelps.
Plus, check out my HuffPost sports blog, The Schultz Report, for a fresh and daily outlook on all things Olympics and listen to my radio spot on 1280 The Zone Friday afternoons at 1 ET. Also, tune in at 8:30am ET Thursday mornings on Memphis 56 Sports Radio, right here.
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