TOKYO — Over the last decade and a half, the domination of Usain Bolt in sprinting events has been unparalleled. Bolt was much more than an athlete, he was a charisma, an epitome of fighting spirit, a true sportsman, and most importantly a self-made ambassador for the sport of athletics.
Usain Bolt was well loved!
People thronged to stadiums to watch Bolt. He was loved and respected across borders. The retirement of the sprint legend has left such a huge void and at the same time made way for the next generation of talents.
It is extremely difficult to put into words the magnitude of Bolt’s achievements. Three consecutive Olympic gold medals in both 100 and 200 are in itself an impossible achievement. To appreciate his achievements, one needs to look at global events post his retirement.
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During the World Championships in London, Bolt was at the twilight of his career. He participated only in 100 meters and bagged a rare bronze medal. Justin Gatlin who won the gold medal was also at the wrong end of the ’30s. The Silver medal winner Christian Coleman was tagged to be the next big thing in global athletics.
He lived up to expectations by winning the 100 meters in the next world championship in Doha (2019). The next year, Coleman was awarded a suspension for missing three consecutive drug tests in 2019. This suspension has put Coleman out of Tokyo. It is noticeable that Coleman’s dominance was only limited to the 100 meters.
Who were the early pickers?
Before Coleman, Andre De Grasse of Canada was touted to be the next sprinting superhero after he won a bronze in 100 and a silver in 200. But consistent injuries have kept him out of the fray. Noah Lyles, another sprint genius of the USA rose to light after winning the 200 meters in Doha 2019.
The Poster Boy of American sprinting who was adamant about doing a double in Tokyo had to settle only with 200 after he failed to qualify in 100 meters in American Trials. It is hard to conclude whether it is because of increased event specialization or a larger influx of top-notch junior athletes from a developed system or something else, in the last 4 years post-Bolt era, not a single athlete has been able to dominate the sprint double. With this, I can confidently rest my case on the supremacy of Usain Bolt in the sprinting events.
Tokyo 2020 will be the first Olympic Games since Beijing 2008 where Bolt is not competing. To make things interesting, many sprinters across the world have run some amazing times making the Men’s Hundred meters event wide open. Trayvon Bromell is the fastest man in the world (9.77) this year and has won the US Olympic trials. The other two representing the USA are Ronnie Baker and Fred Kerley both of whom have run under 9.90 this year.
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In an ideal scenario, all three should make it to the finals. Then there is Akani Simbine of South Africa who rewrote the African record by running 9.84 this July. Andre De Grasse is peaking at the right time with some consistent performances.
London 2021 double Olympic silver medalist Yohan Blake has not been in the same form since suffering a serious injury a few years ago, but the former training partner of Bolt says he is determined to leave Tokyo with a medal.
Su Bingtsain, the first Asian to go under 10 seconds has shown promise by running 9.98 in Chinese trials. He can definitely be a dark horse in the finals. The British Pair of Adam Gemeli and Chijindu Ujah can create some problems for the medal contenders. Considering timings and performances, Americans should be confident of clean sweeping the event.
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Nevertheless, this is the Olympics, and it has proven a number of times unimaginable things can happen at this grandest and toughest stage. Still, the biggest question that initiated this conversation remains unanswered.
Who shall take over the reins from the sprint King Bolt?
We are all familiar with the popular quote “Rome was not built in a day”.
The same goes with Bolt. He gradually went on to dominate the world proving himself again and again. It is too much, to ask these youngsters to emulate what the Jamaican brought to the track. (Not only his running but the recognition, glory, and popularity).
There are several fantastic talents going around and maybe in time they might establish themselves and become a great ambassador to this beautiful world of Track and Field. Each Individual is unique and that uniqueness brings quality and beauty to the sport. After all, as ardent lovers of sports, we all would like to see neck-to-neck fight till the finish rather than one man dominating the sport, isn’t it?