Marion Jones: Usain Bolt could be best everWith back-to-back gold medals in the 100 meters, Usain Bolt has already proved himself to be the greatest sprinter at this moment.
By: Jeff Latzke, AP Sports Writer, Superior Telegram
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — With back-to-back gold medals in the 100 meters, Usain Bolt has already proved himself to be the greatest sprinter at this moment. To former U.S. track star Marion Jones, it also puts him well on his way to earning the moniker of the best track and field athlete the world has ever seen.
"I certainly think based on the fact that he's still so young and that he's already accomplished so much that, barring serious injury or anything else, I think that he certainly would be considered the greatest track and field athlete ever," Jones told The Associated Press in a phone interview Wednesday.
"And that's based on the fact that he's so young. This is not a person who's 34 or 35 years old. He's young, he's vibrant, he sees that there's so much left for him to do in the sport. People might not say that. People might say, 'He already has the world record. How much faster can you go?' But when you're young, you think differently than a lot of people. You think the sky is the limit."
Bolt burst onto the scene four years ago at the Beijing Games, winning the 100 by daylight over the rest of the world's fastest men. At age 25, he repeated as the gold medalist, finishing in 9.63 seconds Sunday night.
American Carl Lewis is the only other man to win back-to-back 100s at the Olympics, and one of his wins came after Canada's Ben Johnson was disqualified.
"I think that if he continues and he's healthy and everything, he certainly will be considered the greatest track and field athlete ever and probably one of the greatest sportsmen ever to compete," Jones said.
Jones predicted that on Thursday night, Bolt is "probably going to win the 200 and he's probably going to run super fast, maybe set a world record." If so, it would only add to his claim as the best ever — or, as he said after winning the 100, get him closer to becoming a legend.
It's that persona that makes Bolt, who towers over his competition, larger than life.
"I think the reason that he has emerged into such a star, it's certainly more than just the fact that he can run super fast," said Jones, whose audio book "On The Right Track" went on sale Tuesday.
"There have been so many athletes in the history of track and field that have accomplished that, but it's everything else that he brings to the table. It's the excitement, it's the bravado ... it's the swag that he has prior to the race, after the race. It's almost like it does not faze him."
Jones can relate. She won the 100 in the 2000 Sydney Games while becoming the first woman to win five medals at an Olympics. She was later stripped of those medals, and her participation in the Olympics was erased, when she admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs.
Even she marvels at how Bolt is smiling, making funny faces and seems anything but serious, stern and focused before getting into the blocks.
"Put yourself in that situation, and I don't think most people could just be so relaxed prior to getting into the blocks. I think it's great for the sport," Jones said.
"Track and field certainly is in need of a true, true superstar — somebody that's not scared to really show their true personality. That is who he is, and it's fun to watch. It makes track and field fun to watch for everybody."
That's especially true for the Jamaicans, who swept the 100s with Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce also repeating on the women's side. Bolt's Jamaican training partner, Yohan Blake, finished second on the men's side.
That has the U.S. playing catch-up.
Jones believes U.S. track leaders need to do something to reverse that trend, as Caribbean nations pour more resources and support into creating top talent.
"I think for so many years, the Americans dominated the sprints and — I'll be honest and I'll say it and I'll probably be criticized for it, but hey, I'll do it anyway — I think that you kind of get complacent. You start to say, 'This is ours for the taking.' And possibly because of that, you don't focus as much on the younger athletes and really developing a system that creates champions, really starting from an early age and just building on that."
She'd also like to see the current American stars be more visible to fans, creating more of a following by being true personalities who people can grow to love.
"You want so bad for your sport to be recognized," Jones said. "You have to do things to get yourself out there, get your athletes out in the community and have people see their true personalities besides just every four years."