Usain Bolt made Olympic history when the Jamaican sprinter joined Carl Lewis as only the second man ever to win a second gold medal in two consecutive Olympics for the men's 100-meter dash. Bolt not only retained his title of world's fastest man, but he set an Olympic record for the 100-meter event when he ran it in a lightning fast 9.63 seconds.
Clearly, Bolt stands in a class all his own for his achievements both in the 2012 London Olympics, and also for his sensational performance in the 2008 Beijing Games.
One thing is certain in athletics, and that is even champions eventually are toppled -- no matter how invincible the world thinks they are. It is extremely rare for an athlete to go through a career with a flawless record, and usually only those that prematurely retire at a young age can claim such a distinction. In the years to come someone will defeat Usain Bolt at the 100-meter sprint, although it is nearly impossible to guess that person's identity at this point. Bolt will turn 26 years old shortly after the 2012 London Olympics, meaning he will be 29 years old for the next Summer Games, if he chooses to continue competing.
Since it is equally difficult to predict an alternate past as it is an unknown future, it is fun to consider what athletes -- both past and present -- could potentially beat Usain Bolt in the 100-meter sprint. To be clear, these athletes are selected based on their potential and known speed, their raw talent, as it relates to being capable of outpacing Bolt -- the reigning fastest man on the planet. Indeed, three of these athletes have already beaten Bolt in his career, and five others are -- or were -- extraordinary athletes, but not professional track stars. Some are from the present, and many are from the past. All of them are very, very fast athletes that could challenge Bolt. Clearly, football and rugby players would have required coaching, conditioning, and practice from knowledgeable track experts to be able to compete against Bolt.
The top 10 athletes who could challenge Usain Bolt in the 100-meter sprint:
1: Yohan Blake: The 22-year-old Jamaican teammate of Usain Bolt is the last man to beat him at the 2012 Jamaican Olympic trials on June 30. Blake ran the 100-meter dash in 9.75 seconds when he beat Bolt, ironically the same time he clocked to win the silver medal behind Bolt in the 2012 Olympics. Blake is an incredible talent, and has room to improve and overtake Bolt at some point. He has already shown he is capable of beating Bolt, and therefore has the potential to do so in the future. The world will be watching and waiting to see if Blake can take the title from Bolt.
2: Tyson Gay: The American bronze medalist for the 100-meter dash in the 2012 London Olympics is one of the select few track stars to beat Usain Bolt. Gay ran the 100 meters in 9.84 seconds in Stockholm in August 2010, with Bolt finishing second at 9.97 seconds. Although it was hardly one of Bolt's better track meets, it does prove that he would have to run his best race to beat Tyson Gay on any given day.
3: Asafa Powell: Another of Bolt's Jamaican Olympic teammates was the first sprinter to hand Bolt a defeat in a professional track meet. Asafa Powell was supposed to be the man to beat in the 100-meter race going into the Beijing Olympics in 2008, having beat Bolt in Stockholm earlier that same year. Powell ran the 100-meter race in 9.88 seconds, edging Bolt by only one one-hundredth of a second. Like Yohan Blake and Tyson Gay, any man who has beaten Bolt in the past is certainly a strong candidate to do it again.
4: Donovan Bailey: The Canadian gold medal winner who set both the former Olympic and world record in the 100-meter dash at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics would certainly be capable of giving Usain Bolt a strong challenge, if he could have faced him in his prime. Bailey is worthy of consideration because one of his strengths was as a finisher, as shown by the way he came from the pack to defeat Frankie Fredericks, Ato Boldin, and Dennis Mitchell by running a 9.84 seconds in the 100 meter in the 1996 Atlanta Games. Suffice to say that Bolt would not want to turn his head near the finish line the way he did in Beijing with Bailey on the track.
5: Carl Lewis: The first Olympian to win two gold medals in consecutive Olympics for the 100-meter dash in 1984 and 1988, American sprinter Carl Lewis was the fastest man on the planet during the 1980s. Lewis posted a then-world-record 9.78 seconds in the 100-meter dash in 1988, very comparable to current sprinters like Yohan Blake. Although Lewis won his second gold medal because Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson was disqualified for using a substance banned by the International Olympic Committee, Lewis was still the man to beat in track during that decade. The reason Carl Lewis in his prime could give Usain Bolt a run for his money is simply because of his astounding competitive drive. Lewis was determined to win every race he competed in, and often took his game up to a higher level when he knew he was facing a tougher challenge. He had all the talent and physical gifts of a world class athlete, but it was his burning hunger for victory that gave him the edge.
6: Deion Sanders: Neon Deion was the fastest athlete Florida State University head football coach Bobby Bowden said he had ever seen in his life. The defensive back known as "Prime Time" dazzled the scouts at the 1989 NFL combine by running 4.28 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Many witnesses claimed he ran faster than that, and with a little coaching and practice on track, it is fun to wonder how he would have fared in his prime against Usain Bolt. Since Bolt loves the sport of cricket, he would definitely respect the fact that Deion played Major League Baseball and is one of the finest two-sport professional athletes of all time -- in addition to being one of the fastest.
7: Randy Moss: Former Florida State interim athletic director Wayne Hogan said that Randy Moss was one of only two football players he had ever seen stand out above all the others, with the other being Deion Sanders. Although Moss didn't end up playing in any games during his one year at FSU, he did set the second fastest 40-yard dash time in school history at 4.25 seconds, right behind Deion Sanders' 4.23. He would be an interesting challenge for Bolt, mainly because Moss is the same height at 6-foot 5-inches, and Moss was also a track star in high school, long before becoming a star receiver in the NFL.
8: Chris Johnson: The star running back of the Tennessee Titans has already issued a challenge to Usain Bolt, declaring that he would like to race him in the 100-meter dash. Johnson clocked a 40-yard dash at 4.24 seconds at the NFL combine, and has openly declared himself the fastest man in the NFL. Johnson could give Bolt enough of a challenge that Bolt would have to take him very seriously in a 100-meter sprint.
9: Bryan Habana: The South African star rugby player is considered by many to be the fastest player ever on the test-level rugby pitch. Habana ran a 100-meter dash in 10.4 seconds for his team in 2007, and almost ran a dead-heat with a cheetah that same year, albeit with a 30-yard head start. A race between Habana, in his prime, and Usain Bolt would be an enormously popular event in both Europe, South Africa, and Jamaica. Habana would certainly present a stiff challenge to the reigning fastest man on earth.
10: Bo Jackson: One of the most gifted athletes in history, Bo Jackson ran the fastest 40-yard dash in NFL combine history at 4.12 seconds. That time was good enough to make Jackson the first overall draft pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1986, although he decided to play pro baseball at the time instead. He was later drafted by the Oakland Raiders and had a short, but memorable NFL career. Jackson clearly possessed world class sprinter speed, in addition to super-human athletic skills. In his prime, Jackson would certainly be a formidable opponent for Usain Bolt.
More Olympics Track From This Contributor:
Steven Holmes is an enthusiastic fan of the Summer Olympics, and has attentively watched the last seven Summer Olympic Games.