To run faster than any other human being in history is such an extraordinary concept that you have to wonder what it would do to your sense of self. I wondered a lot about it on my way to Jamaica, and the first glimpse of Usain Bolt appears to confirm my worst fears. He arrives at Kingston’s empty National Stadium in blazing Caribbean sunshine, impossibly tall and lean, and approaches with the body language of a man who would rather be anywhere else.
Just 10 days earlier, the sprinter had achieved the unprecedented feat of a third consecutive triple Olympic gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay, watched by hundreds of millions of adoring global fans. Photos of his post-victory celebrations in a Rio nightclub, followed by a night in a young Brazilian woman’s bed, were splashed across front pages all over the world, and the party had carried on to London. For more than a week, minibuses shuttled sparkly clubbers in high heels from Mayfair nightspots to his hotel, the paparazzi scarcely able to believe their luck.


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