The fastest man in the world can't remain the fastest man in the world forever. Things get in the way: He gets older, his competition gets younger, his priorities change.
So for anyone expecting Usain Bolt to repeat and earn his fourth gold medal in London this year, you might want to temper your expectations. At this point, those who believe the Jamaican will fail in London outnumber those who believe he'll blow away the competition once again.
Bolt—who holds the world records in the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash and the 4x100-meter relay—is no longer unbeatable. Never mind the fact that in Beijing in 2008, there didn't seem to be anyone who could compete with him. Never mind the fact that he's achieved cult status internationally because of his speed and has even been called the world's most valuable runner.
As the Olympics grow closer, the only certainty is that Bolt is going to have a very, very difficult time repeating as a gold medalist.
Part of the reason for all of the doubt is the fact that 22-year-old Yohan Blake beat him at Jamaica's Olympic Trials in both the 100 meters and the 200 meters. Newsweek's Annie Paul reports that it marked the first time since 2007 Bolt lost in the 200, and it was the first time ever he didn't win the 100 in his homeland.
Blake, who ran the event in 9.75 seconds, now ranks as the fourth fastest man of all time and registered the fastest 100 time in the world this year, according to the BBC.
Clearly, Blake will present some stiff competition for Bolt, but that's not the only reason there are doubts surrounding the legend. There are questions about whether or not he still has the same fire he had four years ago.
When Bolt crashed his BMW in Kingston in June on his way home from a party, according to Newsweek, it got people talking about whether his priorities are still in order. Paul writes that even the night before the national trials, he partied till 4:30 a.m. She quotes him as saying, "If there were gold medals for partying, I’d have won every year since 2003. My nights out start at 1 a.m. and finish at 6 a.m."
Hearing that, you have to question why he's out so late partying with the Olympics approaching so quickly. You have to wonder whether the fastest man in the world is ready to cede his position to the budding young star who beat him at the Olympic Trials.
The partying—or "unwinding," as Bolt likes to say—may have worked for him four years ago, when he was 21. He may have been able to stay out all night and still be the fastest man in the world in the morning. But he's not 21 anymore, and those habits take a toll.
While Bolt is out till the sun rises, his stiffest competition at the Olympics is probably getting enough rest to make him pay for it on the track. The time might be right for Bolt to find a new way to unwind—at least, if he wants to win another gold medal.
It's certainly possible that Bolt can rebound from his second-place finish at the trials, beat Blake, win another gold medal or two and maintain his world records. A month before losing to Blake at the trials, Bolt ran the 100 in 9.76 seconds at the Rome Diamond League meeting, and afterward, he told the BBC that he didn't care if the world doubted him—he just wanted to prove to himself that he's "still got it."
Judging by his performance in Rome, it's possible that his loss to Blake was a fluke. It's possible that Blake just ran the race of his life and won't be able to repeat in London.
But it's also possible that Bolt's best days are behind him and that someone younger and better will usurp him in London. That's what happens when athletes get older—there's always someone younger and hungrier waiting to steal the spotlight.
Nobody can be the fastest man in the world forever. In a month, we'll see if Bolt can manage to hold on for just a little while longer.