BOLT WALKS Away From The Tracks

The Economic Times - - Sports: The Great Games -

pion, a cer­tain Justin Gatlin, was serv­ing an eight-year sus­pen­sion for a failed test in April 2006. A few months later, it would be re­duced to fouryears.Mar­i­onJones,on­cethes­port’ssprint queen, was about to leave it in dis­grace, and the BALCO scan­dal was the talk of the town.

In the decade since, as Bolt smiled and clowned around on the start line, and smashed record af­ter record, the crowds started to come back, as did some of the be­lief. In time, mod­ern sport’s ul­ti­mate show-stop­per grew to tran­scend ath­let­ics. “I saw the race, and can’t say I’m not dis­ap­pointed that he didn’t win,” says Michael Hold­ing, the West Indies fast bowl­ing great who knows a thing or two about Ja­maica’s sport­ing tra­di­tion. Arthur Wint and Herb McKen­ley wrote the first chap­ter in Lon­don (1948), and Don Quar­rie (1976) would add his own story. But Bolt’s per­son­al­ity reached far be­yond the fi­nal straight. “The loss doesn’t de­tract from the fact that he is the great­est ath­lete ever,” says Hold­ing. “He has made me and all Ja­maicans, wher­ever they live, very proud.

“He be­came as well-known around the world as Bob Mar­ley, and that’s no easy feat. Peo­ple also ap­pre­ci­ated his grace and lack of ar­ro­gance as he con­quered the world.”

When my six-year-old daugh­ter is old enough to fathom tri­umph and fail­ure, it’s not footage from Bei­jing, Ber­lin or Rio that I will show her. It will be of his last race – the close-up shots of his shoul­ders tight­en­ing and the near-wince Usain Bolt kisses the track hav­ing ended his last race with a bronze at the World Cham­pi­onships in Lon­don —AFP

on his face as he tried to find that fi­nal surge that had so of­ten left com­peti­tors in his wake. I’ll show her the dis­be­lief on his face once the line was crossed, when it be­came ap­par­ent that Gatlin and Christian Cole­man had snuffed out the fairy­tale.

But most of all, she should see how this man – who had buried one of his clos­est friends just months ear­lier – swal­lowed that dis­ap­point­ment, and went up to Gatlin and con­grat­u­lated him,be­fore­ac­knowl­edgin­gev­erycornero­fas­ta­dium that had come to watch his last in­di­vid­ual race. He melded great­ness and grace. In­stead of be­ing di­min­ished in the face of de­feat, he stood tall, smiled and re­minded us of what Sa­gan had once said about as­tron­omy – ‘no bet­ter demon­stra­tion of the folly of hu­man con­ceits’.

It was en­nobling. And quite heart­break­ing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.