TORONTO (Reuters) - Jamaica’s Usain Bolt has won three Olympic gold medals, smashed world records and drawn comparisons with Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis but he’s not the greatest, yet, according to Michael Johnson.
“Every now and then comes an athlete for the times and I believe Usain Bolt is that athlete,” the four-time Olympic champion Johnson said in recognizing Bolt as the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year.
“It happened for me in 1996, it happened with Carl Lewis in 1984 and Jesse Owens in 1936 and now it is happening for Usain.
“He doesn’t just want to win races and medals, he wants to test the limits.”
Bolt smashed both the 100 and 200 meters world records at the Beijing Olympics last year, running 9.69 seconds in the 100 and 19.30 seconds in the 200.
But Johnson, the 400 meters world record holder who lost his 200 meters record to Bolt, said he was not ready yet to proclaim the Jamaican the best sprinter of all-time.
“For him to be the greatest, he’ll have to win gold at another Olympics or a world championship, show some consistency and longevity,” Johnson said.
“But there’s no reason for me to think he can’t do it.”
The 22-year-old Bolt pipped swimmer Michael Phelps, world tennis number one Rafael Nadal, soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo, Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton and MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi for the Laureus award.
He will run his first major 100 meters of the year in Toronto on Thursday and Bolt said the race would be a good gauge of his training.
Americans Shawn Crawford, who finished second in the 200 in Beijing, Bernard Williams and Ivory Williams also are in the field. All have run under 10 seconds.
Bolt shrugged when asked if he would move up to the 400 meters in the future.
“A lot of people are saying I should... I’m thinking about it, but I’m not sure yet,” he said, adding he and his coach were still trying to decide if he should attempt to repeat the 100-200 double in London in 2012, or if he might try a 200-400 double.
Johnson said he thinks Bolt can better his 400 meters world record of 43.18 seconds.
He also said he wanted to see Bolt race Tyson Gay in the 200. The American recently ran the third fastest 200 of all-time, 19.58 seconds.
“He knows that that is really his opportunity to challenge Usain Bolt and that’s one of the matchups that I’m anticipating most this year,” Johnson said.
Editing by Greg Stutchbury