Bolt needs wor­thy chal­lengers

Ja­maican su­per­star’s su­pe­ri­or­ity could start to work against him

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By REUTERS in Moscow

Usain Bolt is un­doubt­edly the big­gest name in world sport. But un­less some­one emerges who can re­al­is­ti­cally chal­lenge his hege­mony, the ma­jes­tic Ja­maican might be­gin to lose some of his star­dust.

Bolt com­pleted an­other sprint dou­ble on Satur­day when he added the world 200m ti­tle to the 100 he took ear­lier in the week, but his vic­tory left some­thing of a hol­low feel­ing, achieved as it was with him eas­ing up in the last 15 me­ters.

Hav­ing se­cured the same dou­ble at the last two Olympics and the 2009 world cham­pi­onships and al­most cer­tainly been de­nied an­other only by a false start in the 2011 world 100m fi­nal, Bolt’s vic­to­ries are less races than pro­ces­sions.

Com­ing off an in­jury­plagued start to the sea­son, his win­ning times in Moscow — 9.77 and 19.66 sec­onds — are way down on his 2009 world records of 9.58 and 19.19, but still no­body was even re­motely close to chal­leng­ing him.

Al­ways more at home in the longer sprint, Bolt was com­pletely re­laxed as he pre­pared for the race and did not change his de­meanor as his gi­ant stride ate up the ground on the open­ing bend.

It was in the bag halfway down the straight and he eased up in the last few strides while the rest of the field were burst­ing their lungs in his slip­stream in the fight for the mi­nor medals.

Com­pa­triot War­ren Weir, bronze medal­ist at the Lon­don Olympics, ran well in lane eight to take sil­ver in a per­sonal best 19.79, while Cur­tis Mitchell grabbed the bronze for the US in 20.04, pre­vent- ing a Ja­maican clean sweep by one hun­dredth of a sec­ond as he held off Nickel Ash­meade.

“Af­ter 150 I looked across and saw War­ren there and knew he was tired, so I wasn’t too stressed about that,” said Bolt.

“I looked to the other side and there was no­body there so I thought I’d prob­a­bly won it.

“When I started get­ting tired in the last 15 me­ters I thought ‘why not back off?’ to make sure I was OK for Sun­day (the 4x100m re­lay) and the rest of the year.

“I’m all about win­ning cham­pi­onships and if I run 20 flat to win a cham­pi­onship I’m OK with that,” he said.

“I love the 200, ev­ery­one knows that. The 100 is for the fans and for the show, fastest man in the world and all that, but for me it means more to come here and de­fend my 200 ti­tle.”

With no sign of world records, with lit­tle real ex­cite­ment in his races, no more talk of mov­ing up to 400 me­ters or the long jump and, mer­ci­fully, no more fan­ci­ful spec­u­la­tion of a soc­cer ca­reer with Manch­ester United, what is there to keep the fans in­ter­ested?

A diver­sion into the Com­mon­wealth Games would be a mildly in­ter­est­ing side show next sea­son if com­pa­triot Yohan Blake was fit and fan­cied a crack, but Bolt’s long-term aim re­mains the Rio Olympics in 2016.

He would be hit­ting 31 then and, even if in­jury-free, surely strug­gling to be run­ning in the low 9.6s and 19s, and win­ning third golds in both sprints would cer­tainly be an absolutely ex­tra­or­di­nary achieve­ment.

Bolt, for one, is not tak­ing any­thing for granted.

“Th­ese guys step their game up year af­ter year and I’m sure they’ll go away and work harder,” he said af­ter Satur­day’s win.

“War­ren got an­other pb to­day and I’m sure over the next few years it will get even harder.”

Tyson Gay and Blake have both run 9.69 while Blake has run 19.26 over the 200, but both were ab­sent from Moscow — Gay for a pos­i­tive drugs test and Blake through in­jury.

Gay was the last man to beat Bolt in a ma­jor 200m race, in the 2007 world fi­nal, while Justin Gatlin’s rare win over the big man ear­lier this sea­son came while Bolt was re­cu­per­at­ing from in­jury.

It might be all over for Gay but Blake, still only 23, looks to have the tal­ent and men­tal­ity to chal­lenge his com­pa­triot.

Oth­ers might need to work on over­com­ing his aura if they are to re­ally chal­lenge him.

“It was just a priv­i­lege to be in the race with th­ese guys and I’m just hon­ored to be sit­ting here next to Usain Bolt,” said Mitchell, in a phrase that will send shiv­ers down the spines of Amer­ica’s “sec­ond place is first loser” coach­ing fra­ter­nity.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.