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Usain Bolt: The Story of the World's Fastest Man By Steven Downes

Release date: 21st November, 2011
Publisher: Sports Books

List Price: £7.99
Our Price: £5.99
You Save: £2 (25%)
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In anticipation of next year's Olympics, British athletes are rightly enjoying prolonged media exposure. To date, however, Jessica Ennis aside, no home-grown Olympian could lay claim to the same box-office credentials as Usain Bolt. Even at £2,000 a time, tickets to next summer's 100 metre final could, we're told, have sold out twelve times over.

Olympic history beckons once more for the appropriately-named Bolt who collected three golds in Beijing and is widely expected to add to his golden haul in London next year.

But as Steven Downes explains in his excellent, if a little brief, story of Bolt's life and successes to date, it was not until the Jamaican ran a competitive 100m at a minor meeting in Crete in 2007 that his talent was recognised. "The history of track and field, the future of athletics was changed forever when Bolt raced 100 metres that day," writes Downes. "Bolt ran 10.03 seconds."

Once Bolt realised that 100m world champion Asafa Powell was raking in appearance fees and bonuses for winning in places like Paris and Zurich, he knew where his future lay and so he pestered his coach to let him compete in one of sport's blue riband events. The world is thankful for Usain's persistence.

Downes revels in the type of informative, but chatty, anecdote that adds a wonderful sense of pace to his book's narrative. One senses he delights in telling his readers that the Crete race took place at Rethymno or that Bolt initially suffered from a curvature of the spine which made his right leg half an inch shorter than his left. The book is peppered with such memorable detail.

He also captures the progressive sense of excitement that builds before a high profile race, especially as Bolt is contracted to race against America's Tyson Gay on a thundery New York night. Incredibly, given the conditions, Bolt ran 9.72 seconds, a new world record, leaving the then world-record holder in his wake.

"Writing a book about a moving target," muses Downes, "especially one that moves as fast as Bolt, is inevitably only going to provide a snapshot of history." Though short, this book is well-written and does exactly what Downes says it does in his preface.


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