Track and field’s greatest star and one of the world’s premier athletes, Usain Bolt has made a career of unavailability or substandard showings at lower-stakes settings while turning in historic performances when it counts. Friday night marked a significant hiccup in the 29-year-old sprinter’s pattern.
Bolt withdrew from the 100-meter dash final at the Jamaican Olympic Trials with a torn hamstring. He will not participate in the weekend’s 200-meter dash event as well. If the 6-foot-5 phenom were running under the United States’ rules, he would not be heading to the Rio Games since the USA doesn’t permit injury exemptions if runners are wounded at the Trials. But Jamaica does, keeping Bolt’s hopes alive for a fourth Games.
Bolt confirmed on his Twitter account he’s submitted a medical exemption to be excused from the Jamaican championships. He’ll attempt to compete July 22 in London to show fitness for another Olympic bid. Bolt won his semifinal heat in 10.04 seconds but complained of hamstring tightness after his previous preliminary race on Thursday night, Kristen Davis of USA Today Sports reports.
However, the nature of the injury certainly puts track’s highest-profile athlete’s status for Brazil in question. Bolt has consistently dealt with injuries, with his back proving as the biggest obstacle in the past. But he’s conquered those physical maladies in time to be ready for the past three Olympic Games and the past four World Track and Field Championships.
Sprinters routinely deal with hamstring trouble, but torn hamstrings are tougher to overcome than strained or pulled muscles. However, if Bolt is reasonably healthy, it’s a great bet Jamaica will send him to Brazil.
Bolt holds the world records in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and anchored the fastest 4×100-meter relay in history. He claimed gold medals in each race in Beijing and London and defeated Justin Gatlin at the 2015 World Championships despite the American having enjoyed a far better season. Were Bolt to miss the Games, Gatlin — the 2004 Olympic 100-meter champion who was later suspended four years for performance-enhancing drug use — would be the favorite again despite being 34.
Gatlin will attempt to qualify for the Olympics at the U.S. Trials in Oregon this week and next.