Is Usain Bolt Really the Greatest Sportsman of All Time?

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Now, first of all, before I proceed, I really like Usain Bolt. His achievements and his personality it seems are becoming legendary (you know where this is going don’t you, all three of you?), but to put him on a par with the likes of boxing’s Muhammad Ali and football’s Pele, as many commentators (sports and otherwise) have in the days since Bolt won a sixth Olympic gold medal of his career, is both premature and ludicrous.

Yes, like them, Bolt is the best in his sport, but they were at the top of their games for a longer period. Plus, can one put the 100 and 200m sprints on the same level as the longer lasting and more frequent games of boxing and football? In my opinion, no. A sprint does not require as much endurance as a marathon of rounds and matches of boxing and football would do.

How dare a ‘nobody’ like me attempt to ‘soil’ Usain Bolt’s achievements with these remarks (a metaphor for actual soil would be good, probably, as there’s a lot of goodness in the stuff)? I could eat all the energy bars in the world and wouldn’t get close to him. I’m not saying his accolades are not well deserved, but let’s show a bit of perspective here. I’m sure that many of those who, in the heat and euphoria of the moment, were proclaiming that Bolt’s greatness usurped that of athletes such as Ali and Pele will see that a short sprint that lasts around 10 to 20 seconds is not in the same league as fighting round after round, and playing competitive football over many months of a season.

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Yes, sprinters such as Bolt train hard for years and the circumstances of their sport mean that those years of hard work could blow up in their faces in under 10 seconds as opposed to boxers and footballers who can make up ground with the time they are allocated, but they have got to work just as hard.

Before Ali’s bouts with the likes of Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier and George Foreman amongst others, he had to undergo a punishing training schedule to get into shape for those contests, like anyone would. And they all lasted longer than 10 to 20 seconds. He won numerous world titles over a number of years – longer than the period in which Bolt has competed within – including a gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics.

Pele, meanwhile won the World Cup with Brazil an unprecedented three times as a player; tournaments where he and his team had to compete in at least five matches before the final as well as qualifiers before the big event. I could go on about the fact that he scored over 1,000 goals in competitive matches as well, but I won’t. I just think that some sports require more skills than others.

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  • Arnold Vonk says:

    Usain bolt is the best sprinter of his era, but he is not the best athlete ever. I wouldn’t compare him with boxers, but with other athletes in the track & Fiield department. Bolt currently holds 6 gold medals. Carl Lewis holds 9 (10 in total) just like Paavo Nurmi (12 ), who both were more complete (long jump vs. Steeple chase). On top, they have set more world records. Also bear in mind, the Jamaican did not reach any final during his appearance on the Athens Games in 2004. Being legend is clearly a bolt statement. Read more about this topic on

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