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RIO 2016: Why Usain Bolt needs to win the 200m today

USAIN BOLT will run in the Men's 200m final at 11.30am.

NO current athlete transcends sport more - nor has a greater responsibility to perform clean - than Usain Bolt.

Whoever holds the "fastest 100m sprinter on the planet" title always commands revered sporting status. Bolt has extended and enhanced his lease through charisma and the ability to back bravado with performance.

Boxer Muhammad Ali and basketballer Michael Jordan must be the best sporting comparisons from the last 50 years. Like them, Bolt is a household name who demonstrates similar, if not more, invincibility and charm.

The above words were written three years ago for ahead of the track and field world championships in Moscow.

Nothing has changed with Bolt's 9.81s performance in Rio to win the 100m and earn his seventh Olympic gold medal.

Now the onus falls on him to win the 200m.

Few could get away with the statement "anything is possible, I don't think limits" on a Twitter handle which, at last count, boasted 4.2 million followers, without getting lampooned for reading too many self-help books.

Bolt's only blemish at a major meet was disqualification from the 100m at the 2011 world championships. His devotees are in a constant state of Usainity; just ask the three Swedish handballers who sought "special accreditation" to party in his room after he won the London Olympics 100m.

However, the fact many of his key rivals have tested positive to banned drugs during his reign places an onus on Bolt (world records 9.58s for the 100m and 19.19s for the 200m) to keep proving he is the real clean deal. Several Jamaicans have also tested positive in that time. The microscope remains on their country's sprinting figurehead, as well as the overall testing programme.

Bolt has always tested clean but, if it was ever proven otherwise, it'd be the end of the sporting world as we know it. Forget the Ben Johnson and Lance Armstrong scandals, there would be unparalleled fury.

That's why Bolt also has to win the 200m in Rio. Fans need to know someone continues to wave an honourable flag to show supreme athleticism, fortuitous genetics and hard toil can trump unnatural forces.

Research from Britain's Telegraph suggests Bolt's speed emanates from his 1.95m height which lengthens his stride and allows him to take 41 rather a 100m sprinter's traditional 43-50 steps in a race.

Fast-twitch muscle fibres, boosted by the 'sprinting gene' - ACTN3 - also help. Studies have found 75 per cent of Jamaicans carry this gene. The aluminum-rich soil of Jamaica is understood to increase its activity.

The Diamond League meet in Paris three years provided an exercise in observation as to the power and influence Bolt wields. The theme was "superheroes" but only one unmistakable masked face graced the cover of the meet programme.

The crowd built to a crescendo as his 200m appearance neared. To ease the tension he appeared beforehand, chauffeured for a lap of the track in a green Citroen.

An interviewer lobbed Bolt a series of underarm questions. The words "former drug cheat Justin Gatlin" weren't part of the script. Perhaps that was fair enough. The 50,000 Stade de France patrons (most of them Bolt fans judging by the cacophony) wanted to hear their champion talk speed and the wonders of Paris, not doping.

The Gatlin question, in relation to the disgraced former Olympic 100m champion and Bolt's key rival, was saved for the press conference.

Bolt had lost to him by 0.01s earlier in the season at Rome. How important was it for the future of track and field's credibility that Bolt kept beating Gatlin, a man four-and-a-half years his senior?

Bolt proved as good sidestepping as he is running straight or on the bend: "I lost one 100m. People are making a big deal of it but it doesn't bother me. If he's in the lane beside me, I'll get it right. I'm a championship person and as long as I'm in great shape, I'm not worried."

So it's already proved in Rio.

Another test of Bolt's fame came unchoreographed post-meet. He wandered out to the track, presuming the crowd had gone. He was met with a near riot as a group (who looked to be filming some sort of commercial on the pitch) broke ranks and ran towards him.

As security guards held the small crowd at bay, Bolt sheltered behind a flimsy railing.
Eventually, once the crowd had been placated, the champion slunk away.

It ain't always easy being Usain Bolt, but so many people have bought into his legend he can't afford to drop his standards - or be lured into temptation.

Too much depends on it.

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