Usain Bolt is too gifted not to leave everything on the track.
The Jamaican sprinter already boasts the world record in the 100-meter, 200-meter and the 4x100-meter relay, but a whole new level of dominance is within reach. When the Summer Olympics head to Rio de Janeiro in 2016, Bolt should reveal elite versatility and enter the 400-meter.
Four years from now, Bolt will be nearing 30 years old. It’s unlikely that he’ll be able to compete with a 26-year-old Yohan Blake in the 100 and 200—races that require pure speed.
Father Time is much kinder to endurance runners, though. A training shift would extend Bolt’s career as a gold-medal favorite.
According to John Wragg of the Express, Bolt isn’t sold on running the strenuous 400, but he’s left the door open. He said:
I hate the 400-meter but my coach and I will make up our mind about whether I run that after this Olympics. Whether I’m going to move up to 400-meter or whether I’m going to stick to one event or change events, I don’t know.
Many believe that the 400 is the most difficult race in all of track and field because it demands a combination of speed and stamina. Despite that fact, one 400 legend believes Bolt is not only talented enough to make a successful transition, but break the world record.
ESPN reported that current world-record-holder, Michael Johnson, noted that Bolt actually began his career not as a 100 and 200 runner, but as a 400 runner. Johnson said of Bolt:
He has the build to be a great 400-meter runner and he certainly has the speed. Without a doubt I think if he chose to make the switch at some point in his career and decided he was going to train for the 400-meter I am certain he would break the world record and probably run under 43 seconds and become the first person to run 42 seconds.
Bolt is already the fastest man in the history of the world. He boasts three world records. He could retire and his legacy wouldn’t take a hit.
But with his unparalleled combination of God-given speed, relentless work ethic and perhaps most unique of all, his 6’5” frame, Bolt can’t quit now. When you’re a once-in-a-lifetime athlete, why not do everything in your power to fulfill your potential?
If he retires with five world records, would Bolt be the greatest athlete ever?
Mustering up the motivation for four more years of blood, sweat and tears is easier said than done when you’ve already accomplished as much as Bolt—just ask Michael Phelps. But if Bolt breaks the world record in the 400, he’ll be remembered as the most dominant Olympian, sprinter and athlete to ever grace the planet.
To own every sprinting record—and he’d potentially own five if you include the 4x400-meter relay—would be the epitome of supremacy.
Four more years and 200 extra meters: that’s what stands between Bolt and the title of the greatest athlete of all time.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.