As Usain Bolt heads into his final Olympics, the sprints world record holder looks to make history as the first man to win three gold medals in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 4x100 relay.
Bolt catapulted into stardom at the 2008 Olympics, when he ran world records of 9.69 and 19.30 in the 100 and 200. He lowered those marks to 9.58 and 19.19 just a year later at the 2009 world championships. The same Bolt theatrics to London in 2012 and he swept the 100, 200 and 4x100 titles.
Before Bolt was king and before we start to look at the future without him in track and field, a race on Aug. 24, 2004 is often forgotten. The results on the scoreboard read:
- Marcin Jędrusiński, POL 20.63 Q
- Tobias Unger, GER - 20.65 Q
- Joseph Batangdon, CMR - 20.92 Q
- Géza Pauer, HUN - 21.02 Q
- Usain Bolt, JAM - 21.05
Without the Q next to his name, Bolt failed to advance to the next round of the 200 meters or the final. The United States swept the medals for the first time in history with Shawn Crawford taking gold and Bernard Williams and Justin Gatlin finishing for silver and bronze, respectively.
Men had beat Bolt. The plural of man has not been uttered much in the context of that sentence. Below is the list of men that can say they have crossed the finish line ahead of Bolt in a race since the 2008 Olympics:
Antigua’s Daniel Bailey (2009 London Diamond League 100 semifinal)
American Tyson Gay (2010 Stockholm Diamond League 100)
Jamaica’s Yohan Blake (2012 Jamaican National Championship 100 & 200 final)
Justin Gatlin (2013 Rome Diamond League)
Before we bid adieu to Bolt, we took a closer look at the four men that beat Bolt in his first Olympics and how their careers panned out after Athens.
Marcin Jędrusiński, Poland - Heat winner in 20.63
After beating Bolt, Jędrusiński ran his season’s best of 20.55 in the quarterfinals to secure a spot in the semis. He drew a tough semifinal as two of the eventual medalists in Shawn Crawford and Bernard Williams took 1-2 in 20.05 and 20.18. Jędrusiński would’ve had to run close to his personal best of 20.31 to advance to the final. Instead he finished a distant seventh in 20.81.
In 2005, he would run a wind-aided 20.14 and then win a silver medal at the 2006 European Championships in the 4x100 relay. The next time he would see Bolt would be at the 2007 world championships in Osaka, where Bolt was a different man and blew him away with a 20.03 in the semifinals before taking silver in the final. Jędrusiński finished his career never having reached a 200-meter final at a global championship. He has not competed since 2012.
Tobias Unger, Germany: 2nd place in 20.65
Unger knew how to peak in Athens. He is the lone member of this section to reach the 200 meter final. He may have run 20.54 for the second slowest time of the semifinals but he advanced. Unger can forever be introduced at any race as “2004 Olympic 200 meter finalist” and that’s what counts. Forget the fact that he was last in the final. He made up for it in 2005 by running a German national record of 20.20 and then at the world championship final he...beat Bolt again.
It was their last meeting against each other and he will forever be able to claim a 2–0 record against the world’s fastest man.
Joseph Batangdon, Cameroon: 3rd place in 20.92
Defeating Usain Bolt took so much out of the African champion that he did not start the next round. He may have sustained a minor injury as he returned to action a month later. Batangdon did not draw Bolt at the 2005 world championships and never faced him again or competed at a major championship. He retired in 2011.
Géza Pauer, Hungary: 4th place in 21.02
The man who finished ahead of Bolt and took the final auto-qualifier for the next round...was a cheat. We will forever have the hypothetical situation of what if Bolt’s hamstring would’ve magically healed and he surmounted an incredible run for the podium. Next time you think you can outrun a purse snatcher remember that even the world’s fastest man can be robbed.
He went on to run 20.90 before being eliminated in the quarterfinal. He never ran faster ever again.
Pauer tested positive for the anabolic steroid Boldenone at the Hungarian 2006 national championships and was banned for two years. He continued running after his suspension but never qualified for a national team and retired after 2012.
Since losing in Athens, Bolt has only run slower than 21.05 for 200 meters on two occasions:
Injury in the 2005 world championship final - 26.27, last place finish
2012 Jamaican national championship heats - 21.21, win