Usain Bolt: Best Case, Worst Case for Jamaican Sprinter at 2012 Olympics
The defending gold medalist at the 100-meter dash and the 200-meter dash has looked like his usual brilliant self at times this season, most notably during a two-week stretch in late May and early June where he posted back-to-back sub-9.80-second marks in the 100.
Other times, Bolt has looked uncharacteristically beatable. He clocked a pedestrian 10.04 at a late May meet in Ostrava, Czech Republic and more recently lost to training partner Yohan Blake in the 100 and the 200 at Jamaican Olympic Trials.
One could draw wildly different conclusions about Bolt's Olympic prospects based on the above information, and we'll do just that with the best-case and worst-case scenarios provided in the slides ahead.
The Worst-Case Scenario: Bolt Injured
Bothered by the mysterious injury that recently forced him to withdraw from a pre-Olympic tune-up meet in Monaco, Bolt comes to London out of shape and unable to perform at full capacity.
In an attempt to return ahead of schedule, Bolt re-aggravates the ailment and must withdraw from all three of his Olympic races (100-meter dash, 200-meter dash and the 4x100-meter relay).
Four years after his historic Beijing triumphs, the great Bolt walks away empty-handed.
Result: 0 Medals
The Bad Scenario: Bested by Blake
As it was at Jamaican Trials, Bolt is outdone by training partner Yohan Blake in both the 100 and the 200.
Thanks in part to his admittedly lax training (via Yahoo!), Bolt doesn't have the back-half speed needed to overcome Blake's quick starts.
Bolt does, however, earn a fourth career gold medal running alongside Blake in the 4x100-meter relay.
Result: 3 medals (1 gold, 2 silver)
The Middle-of-the-Road Scenario: Wins One, Loses One
Even though he isn't in top condition, Bolt's closing speed proves too much for Blake in the 200 and he defends his Olympic crown.
Elsewhere, in the 100, Bolt gets off to a slow start and can't catch Blake on the back half. It takes every last stride just for Bolt to overtake American Justin Gatlin and earn a silver medal.
Result: 3 Medals (2 gold, 1 silver)
The Good Scenario: Bolt Retains His Titles
Bolt silences any talk of regression, becoming the first man in Olympic history to win the 100 and the 200 at consecutive Olympic Games.
He doesn't repeat his dual-world-record performance from Beijing, but he's impressive all the same, crushing his competition in the 200 and securing a dramatic victory in the 100 over Blake.
Those that questioned Bolt before London walk away wondering if he's the greatest track athlete of all time.
Results: 3 medals (All gold)
The Best-Case Scenario: Sets New Standards for Excellence
Bolt forever silences any debate over his greatness by winning all three of his Olympic events and bettering at least one of his own world records in the process.
Bolt finishes the 200 so far ahead of Yohan Blake and American Wallace Spearmon Jr. that the camera has trouble keeping all three in one shot.
The 100-meter final is yet another laugher, with Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell and Blake seeming to exist on some lesser plane of human motion.
London's Olympic stadium reverberates with chants of "Bolt...Bolt...Bolt" while, all along press row, writers rack their brains to invent new, grander adjectives to describe this flash of human flesh.
Injuries? What injury?
Apathy? What apathy?
Greatest track athlete of all time? Bolt!
Result: 3 medals (all gold)