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London 2012: Is Usain Bolt the greatest Olympic track runner of all time?

David TrifunovGlobalPost.com

Usain Bolt won his fifth career gold medal today, cruising to victory in the 200-meter sprint at the 2012 London Olympics.

He became the first ever sprinter to defend the 100 and 200 titles after winning both four years ago in Beijing.

Barring disaster, he’s likely to add his third gold of this year’s Summer Olympics during Saturday’s 4x100 relay with his Jamaican teammates.

After all, Jamaicans swept the 200 today with Yohan Blake (19.44) and Warren Weir (19.84) finishing second and third, respectively, behind Bolt’s 19.32 seconds.

Four years from now, when Rio hosts the 2016 Games, Bolt will be 29.

So, can we call it early? Is Usain Bolt the greatest track athlete ever?

“I’ve got nothing left to prove,” he said today, Reuters reported. “I’ve showed the world I’m the best. This is my moment. I’ll never forget this. I did what I wanted. I came out of a rough season and did what I had to do.”

OK, but he’s biased.

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History would suggest Bolt, 25, still has some lofty goals ahead of him.

Two men in particular, can argue for their place ahead of Bolt (to make it simple, for now at least, lets debate the men).

Bolt is still four gold medals shy of American Carl Lewis, for starters.

Lewis embraced both track AND field which makes him an endearing figure.

Not only did he win back-to-back 100s (1984, 1988 thanks to Ben Johnson), but he won the Olympic long jump in four consecutive Games (1984 to 1996).

He ended his long, Olympic career with 10 medals. The lone silver came in the 200 at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

The other athlete with a claim on the greatest on the track is Paavo Nurmi.

The Flying Finn also has nine gold medals and 12 overall.

Nurmi was a distance runner from a different era, so it’s difficult to handicap his accomplishments.

However, winning six gold medals at the 1924 Paris Games certainly seems unbeatable.

Nurmi won events like the 1,500, 5,000 and 10,000 meters – all events still held today.

Yet, he also won the individual and team cross country golds, and the team 3,000, none of which exist anymore.

What you can’t argue with is Nurmi’s world records. Throughout his career, he set and reset 22 world records in 16 different events.

They ranged from the dependable 1,500 to the long-forgotten one-hour race.

But, hey, maybe one day Bolt’s events will become passe. That’s why those connected to the Games are waiting for Bolt’s career to conclude before cementing his place in history.

“Let him participate in three, four games, and he can be a legend,” IOC president Jacques Rogge said in The Washington Post. “Already he’s an icon.”

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