Flashback: Usain Bolt at the Athens 2004 Olympics (video)

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Usain Bolt‘s sights are set on a “triple-triple” at the Rio 2016 Olympics. The Jamaican, already the first athlete to sweep the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay at consecutive Olympics, will try to do so for a third straight time next year.

But, no matter what Bolt does in Brazil, he will leave with a blemish on his Olympic résumé. It’s been there since 2004, when Bolt debuted at the Olympics in Athens.

Bolt, then 17 years old, made the Jamaican Olympic team for one race in the Greek capital — the 200m. He came to the Games with the second fastest time in the world in the event in 2004.

Sports Illustrated predicted Bolt would win a bronze medal behind world leader Shawn Crawford (who famously raced a giraffe and a zebra on primetime TV) and Greek 2000 Olympic champion Konstantinos Kenteris (who infamously missed a drug test the day before he was favored to the light the Olympic cauldron at the Opening Ceremony and withdrew from the Games days before the 200m race).

“It would be nice to be Olympic 200 meters champion at my age, but I don’t want to harp too much on that,” Bolt said in April 2004, according to Agence France-Presse.

But while Bolt carried enormous potential, he also was weighed down by a left hamstring injury (related to back problems and followed by an Achilles tendon issue, Bolt said in one of his books) that kept him out of the World Junior Championships one month before the Olympics and reportedly sidelined him for nearly three months that year.

“I am not where I was when I ran the world junior record,” Bolt said in Athens, according to AFP, referencing his 19.93 clocking April 11, 2004. “The good thing is, I am able to compete.”

Bolt was right on. He competed, but he wasn’t his best.

“It was too early for me, too soon in my development, and I wasn’t going to win based on how unprepared I was,” Bolt said in his book, “The Fastest Man Alive: The True Story of Usain Bolt.” “My preference had been to do the World Juniors [in July 2004]. … The Olympics [in August] should have been an occasion to look forward to. It is a significant moment in any athlete’s career, but given my poor condition I couldn’t think about enjoying it.”

He finished fifth in his first-round heat in 21.05 but needed to be 21.02 or better to advance to the quarterfinals.

“I knew it was a complete waste of time,” Bolt said of his heat in his book. “I didn’t have the heart for it. I could have got into the first four and reached the next round, but I wasn’t interested. I was in fifth place approaching the finish and could have got past the athlete ahead of me but didn’t bother. It didn’t make any sense. Even if I’d made it through, I was never going to be able to do anything and go further. I wanted to get out of Greece, which had been a very bad experience for me.”

If Bolt had made it to the final, his 19.93 world junior record would have won the silver medal behind Crawford’s 19.79.

Four years later, Bolt won the Beijing Olympic 200m in a then-world record 19.30. He reset the world record at the 2009 World Championships — 19.19 — and repeated as Olympic champion in London in 19.32.

Bolt’s run of dominance in the event at global championships appears to be in jeopardy heading to the World Championships in Beijing in August. American Justin Gatlin, who won Olympic 100m gold in Athens before serving a four-year doping ban, has the world’s two fastest 200m times since Bolt won the 2013 World title.

Flashback: Michael Phelps at the Sydney 2000 Olympics

Mark Spitz takes on Katie Ledecky’s challenge

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Swimmers around the world took on Katie Ledecky‘s milk-glass challenge since it became a social media sensation, including one of the few Americans with more Olympic gold medals.

Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games, took 10 strokes in an at-home pool while perfectly balancing a glass of what appeared to be water on his head.

“Would’ve been faster with the ‘stache, @markspitzusa, but I still give this 7 out of 7 gold medals,” Ledecky tweeted.

Spitz joined fellow Olympic champions Susie O’Neill of Australia and American Matt Grevers in posting similar videos to what Ledecky first shared Monday.

In Tokyo next year, Ledecky can pass Spitz’s career gold-medal count of nine if she wins all of her expected events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles and the 4x200m free relay.

Then she would trail one athlete from any country in any sport — Michael Phelps, the 23-time gold medalist who has yet to post video of swimming while balancing a glass on his head.

MORE: Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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