Every four years, fans around the world are treated to the greatest spectacle in sports, and it lasts less than ten seconds.
The men’s 100-metre final is not only the crown jewel of the Olympic Games, but it rivals the Super Bowl and World Cup of Soccer final for the most watched, attended, and hyped sporting event in the world.
The Olympic final is not a four-quarter game or a 90-minute match. It’s a lifetime of training packed into 329 feet that evaporate in a sixth of a minute. At the end of it all, you’re either the fastest person on the planet, or you’re not.
The electricity and tension in the stadium moments leading up to the final has been described as second-to-none by those that have competed in and covered the event. So much build up, and then in the blink of an eye, it’s over.
The primitive nature and simplicity of the sport is what makes sprinting, and specifically the 100-metre, so alluring to people on all corners of the planet. No matter nationality, age, race, or gender, we have all run. It’s a mode of transportation engrained deep in human biological roots, and virtually every person in the world can relate to racing someone head-to-head, using nothing but your feet.
Being labelled the world’s fastest person is an almost-mythological achievement. A title that can be only held by a single person, the fastest between point A and Point B. It’s quite a simple formula, which is why it is such desirable viewing for anyone with a competitive bone in their body.
In recent years, we have all been blessed to witness the dominance and sheer magic of Usain Bolt, the greatest sprinter of all time. The first man to hold the world record in both the 100m and 200m, he was also first to win consecutive 100m and 200m gold medals, dominating both events in 2008 (Beijing) and 2012 (London).
He has turned those world record times into an industry topping income, as Forbes recently reported that Bolt earns close to ten times more than any other track athlete, raking in over $33-million in average endorsements per year since 2009.
Canadians have lived on both sides of the fence when it comes to glory and failure in the Olympic’s flagship event.
In 1988, Ben Johnson captivated the nation by slaying American giant Carl Lewis in the 100-metre final. Seemingly quicker than the race ended, that pride and exuberance turned into shame and contempt as Johnson tested positive and was stripped of his gold medal in one the most polarizing Olympic doping scandals of all-time.
Pride in our national racing identity was restored eight years later, when Donovan Bailey burst onto the world sprinting scene and into the hearts and eternal memory of Canadian sports fans. The first Canadian to (legally) break the 10-second barrier in the 100m, Bailey won the gold medal at the 1996 games in Atlanta and set a world-record in the process.
Canada’s newest superstar to emerge is 21-year-old Andre De Grasse. Picking up the sport later in life, he exploded out of the blocks in his first major international competition, capturing bronze at the 2015 world Championships.
Expected to be a medal contender in Rio, De Grasse has a chance to put the Canadians back in the conversation with the Americans and Jamaicans as the world’s best countries in the world’s most exciting event.
The men’s final goes August 15th in Rio, where Usain Bolt will look to re-write history, and Andre De Grasse will try to switch the international narrative back to Canadian Athletics.
As per usual, all eyes will be focused on the feet of the world’s fastest men, if only for a few seconds.
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Follow author: @KyleCants