Fans Struggle To Envision A Post-Bolt Era

Retirement. For an elite athlete who's logged countless hours in training, the concept must seem tempting. Even us average joes dream of exchanging the daily grind of responsibility for an endless supply of carefree days unburdened by work. So it's understandable why the man dubbed "the world's fastest man" laid out the date of his retirement more than a year ago. But will Usain Bolt really retire before the 2020 Games? The Jamaican sprinter and nine-time Olympic gold medalist has long said Rio will be his final Olympics.

Bolt has long been throwing around the word retirement. In February of 2015, after repeatedly saying he'd retire in 2016, Bolt told the Daily Mail he was committed to retiring after the 2017 World Championships in London, meaning the 2016 Summer Games in Rio would be his last Olympics. "My sponsor has asked me to go on for another year, to 2017 and London," Bolt said. "I'll be doing one event, the 100-meter. I've already discussed it with my coach. I can concentrate on that, and on retiring on a winning note."

Coming out of retirement isn't unheard of. After pushing his Olympic medal total to 22 at the 2012 London Games, American swimmer Michael Phelps hung up his swim cap and officially went into retirement. But retirement and Phelps apparently didn't agree and by April 2014 the swimmer was back in competition with the 2016 Games already on his mind. Perhaps Bolt, like Phelps, will find he actually has one more Olympics in him?

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Currently, Bolt holds the world record for both the 100-meter and the 200-meter and he makes winning look easy, too easy. But at 30 (Bolt celebrates his birthday in Rio on Aug. 21), the Jamaican sprinter has been testing the sport's limits as far as speed, longevity, and age go. Most sprinters peak in their mid-twenties. By the time Tokyo opens the 2020 Games Bolt will be nearing 34. But while the road to gold in 2020 may be more difficult, it would also be more historic.

It's impossible to say if Bolt will race at the Tokyo Games in 2020 or not, although many are hedging their bets that he'll find it too tempting not to. For Bolt, however, Rio appears to be the best time to bid the Olympics adieu. As the Olympics kicked off in Rio earlier this month, Bolt said he felt achieving "a triple triple" — essentially winning gold medals in the 100-meter, 200-meter, and 4x100-meter relay at three consecutive Olympics — would immortalize him in the sport.

"I've proven to the world I'm the greatest," TIME reports Bolt said after anchoring the Jamaican 4x100-meter relay team to a gold medal. "I can't prove anything else."