There is no denying the most dramatic, eye-popping, privileged-to-be-there moment in the whole of sport over the past 10 years. It is the 9.69 seconds Usain Bolt took to cover 100 metres in the Olympic final in Beijing.

No single other moment comes close. It was to witness something akin to a force of nature as Bolt blasted from the blocks and then at 30 metres gradually rose until his telescopic legs ate up the ground at a rate which defied mechanics.

For seconds after Bolt had held his arms wide and beaten his chest in celebration metres from the tape, the crowd hovered between shock and awe as the world record time flashed on the big screen.

Then the world screamed acknowledgement as Bolt brought excitement back to athletics and wonderment to Beijing. He made the impossible seem routine, lowering his 100m world record even further to 9.58 seconds and smashed the 200m record by running 19.19 at the World Championships last August.

He has pushed back the boundaries of his own sport, and that is perhaps the most vital ingredient when searching for the sportsman of the decade.

But there are others, one of which is enduring excellence. On that count rarely can a decade have contained so many sportsmen who have given so much inspiration to so many.

Can anyone have done so against odds as formidable as those faced by Lance Armstrong, the American cyclist who on October 2, 1996, at the age of 25, was diagnosed with stage three testicular cancer?

The cancer had spread to his lungs, abdomen and brain and he was already coughing up blood and had a large, painful tumour. Immediate surgery and chemotherapy were required to save his life and his doctor gave him less than a 40% survival chance.

What did Armstrong do?

Only went on to win the Tour de France, arguably the most gruelling sporting event of them all, in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005.

Courage, stamina, a will of iron. He possessed them all and just for good measure came out of a retirement no-one could say he did not deserve to finish third in the Tour de France last summer at the age of 37.

That is the hallmark of greatness.

It is also why I cannot elevate Michael Schumacher to such a podium, even if the petrol heads would disagree.

Yes, Schumacher dominated the sport of Formula One. He was ruthless and sometimes reckless in winning seven world motor racing titles, five of them for Ferrari between 2000 and 2004.

But how much was the car and how much the driver? It is motor racing's perennial conundrum.

Golf's lack of athleticism also precludes Tiger Woods from lifting the crown for the last decade.

If it was down to sheer global influence then Woods would walk it. Arguably he is the most famous sportsman on the planet and despite having just announced an indefinite break from the sport to tackle the demons of his private life, he will almost certainly gain the five majors he requires to overtake Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 in the next few years.

Woods ticks the box when it comes to pushing the boundaries of his sport, although there are many who would class golf more as a pastime. He ticks the criteria of consistency and longevity too.

But then David Beckham scores highly when it comes to influence and longevity and when it comes to athleticism. But still it is not enough, especially when Beckham's score falls down when it comes to natural talent against the likes of the two Ronaldos, from Brazil and Portugal, and Lionel Messi from Argentina.

No doubt who are the outstanding swimmers of the decade - Ian Thorpe and Michael Phelps, the latter taking eight gold medals in Beijing to add to his six in Athens, but in a sport where multiple events can be suited to a particular body type.

Which brings us to tennis and the elegance and domination of Roger Federer.

There were those who believed it would be decades before Pete Sampras's 14 Grand Slams would be eclipsed, especially when the strength in depth of men's tennis was increasing.

Federer, however, raised the sport to heights never before witnessed, winning 15 in the space of six years, during which time he won the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award on four occasions. His triumph on the clay at Roland Garros this summer also meant he had won on all surfaces.

There are more who deserve a mention. In athletics Hicham El Guerrouj, Asafa Powell and Maurice Greene. In motor cycling Valentino Rossi, while in football Alex Ferguson would walk it by a distance if we included managers.

But we don't. When it comes to the sportsman of the decade the criteria has to be undeniable talent, longevity, courage, athleticism and taking the sport to new frontiers.

Bolt has the magic. Woods has the influence. Federer has the consistency.

But only one was all-conquering after first being required to win the battle of his life.

It is why my sportsman of the decade is Lance Armstrong.

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