Bolt’s De­par­ture Great for Ri­vals, Bad for Ath­let­ics

The Economic Times - - Sports: The Great Games - Brian Home­wood

Usain Bolt’s ri­vals will, for once, be glad to see the back of a man who has dom­i­nated global sprint­ing for the last decade but the sport of ath­let­ics will be far less en­thu­si­as­tic about bid­ding a fi­nal farewell to the charis­matic Ja­maican.

Bolt has com­pleted the sprint dou­ble at the last three Olympics and had he not been dis­qual­i­fied ahead of the 100 me­tres fi­nal at Daegu in 2011, the 30-year-old could have matched that feat at the last four world cham­pi­onships.

In an era blighted by dop­ing scan­dals, the Ja­maican has al­most sin­gle-hand­edly kept the sport afloat but his com­mand­ing reign will come to an end when he re­tires af­ter next month’s world cham­pi­onships, fi­nally al­low­ing other sprint­ers a look-in.

In the sim­ple mat­ter of who will take his place at the top of the 100 me­tres podium ei­ther at or af­ter Lon­don, Canada’s Olympic sprint medal­list An­dre de Grasse ap­pears to be just ahead of the pack as the lead­ing can­di­date. “(De Grasse) shows up when it counts. That’s the mark of a vet­eran. Even though he has been in the sport not too long,” Justin Gatlin, Olympic gold medal- list in 2004 and run­ner-up be­hind Bolt in Rio last year, said.

South Africa also has a new gen­er­a­tion of stars, led by Akani Sim­bine and Thando Roto, although with their na­tional cham­pi­onships tak­ing place in March, peak­ing twice in one sea­son could hin­der their hopes of vic­tory in Lon­don. “It’s dif­fi­cult to be run­ning fast in March and hav­ing to peak for your na­tion­als and still find a away to be ready at the mid­dle of Au­gust,” for­mer 200m world cham­pion Ato Boldon said.

—AFP The door could also open for the United States, a tra­di­tional sprint pow­er­house but largely for­got­ten as a threat for a decade since Gatlin and Tyson Gay tested pos­i­tive for il­le­gal drugs. How­ever, Chris­tian Cole­man put him- But whether any ath­lete can come close to match­ing Bolt’s dom­i­nance and charisma is a dif­fer­ent mat­ter. “You would’ve to have some­one who’s dom­i­nat­ing, no one is do­ing that,” said Michael John­son, for­mer Olympic cham­pion in the 200 me­tres and 400 me­tres. “You would have to have some­one who has some­thing spe­cial he has in terms of per­son­al­ity,” the Amer­i­can told Reuters.

“In track and field, af­ter I left, it wasn’t like some­body just stepped in. It was eight years be­fore Bolt came along.

John­son is one of those who feel the sport needs to work harder at pro­mot­ing it­self rather than wait­ing for a “new Bolt” to burst on the scene. “I don’t think the sport should de­pend on that,” he said.

“If the fed­er­a­tions don’t want to have to pro­mote the sport it­self, want to just ride the coat­tails of a great ath­lete, yeah it’s go­ing to be hard.

“It’s a great sport right here in front of all of us, if we would just pro­mote that, but that takes some work. It’s not that easy.”

Usain Bolt will seek a fi­nal golden hur­rah when he takes to the track at the IAAF World Cham­pi­onships in Lon­don this week

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