There is a depressing pal hanging over the current IAAF World Track and Field athletics championships currently being held in London; the kind of sadness one feels when a dominant lion has lost its cherished incisors. Of course, from the point of view of the victim, this is excellent news. Usain Bolt had announced years ago that these championships would be his last.
I knew at the time of his announcement that this fellow knew his body and he could no longer put his frame through the rigors required for him to remain at the top of his game. Bolt had been doing this since he was fifteen years of age. I first noticed him when he was at the Carifta games, if I’m not mistaken, in the Bahamas. He was tall for his age and was beating up everyone. With a name like Bolt, one was not likely to forget him.
Everyone dreams of being like Michael Jordan, Labron James and Bolt but they only see the finished product; the result of hours, days and years spent in hard training to perform the way they did. While I was hoping Bolt would make his pet event, the Two Hundred meter, his last, the rigorous training required to be ready for that event was beyond what his body could give. I remember in one of his last Two Hundreds he was trying to break his own record, but, in his own words, he said his legs just were not there.
That was a sign that he should sign off. No surprise therefore when he announced his intended retirement shortly after. In the hundred, while he did have a terrible start, it was nothing new for him to play catch up in the latter part of the race. What was conspicuously absent was the afterburners after fifty meters. They just weren’t there anymore. Knowing how passionate Jamaicans are about athletics, I was blown away by how gracious he was after getting the bronze. That he lost to Gatlin is still stuck in my gizzard.
A study which came out in the past week revealed that once a person took drugs they still benefited from the effects long after having stopped taking them. Gatlin had won the gold in 2004. Thirteen years later he is doing times that are faster than he did when ten years younger. Which reminds me of another certain athlete who broke world records some three Olympics after her first when, previously, she could only manage to make it on the U.S. relay team and a backup in the 200. I’m just saying.
But enough about pharmaceuticals. The dominance of the green and gold in the sprints was sadly lacking this time around. Yes, Bolt was bowing out. But what about the others? Blake is too bulky these days and seems to be auditioning for American football. I once thought he’d be the heir apparent when Bolt stepped away. Shelly-Ann went off to have a baby and deposited a bouncing baby boy. Hope she comes storming back like Evelyn Ashford did after she took time off to have her baby.
Elaine Thompson is the fastest woman in the world. She couldn’t have done a better job if I had bribed her to lose that race. Even with a worse start she is capable of catching up with the others. I just can’t explain what happened to her in that 100m finals. Hats off to tiny Marie Ta Lou of the Cote D’ivoire and American Tori Bowie for an exciting race, although I still felt Marie was able to pip her at the line.
For a moment I thought the days of dominance of pompous American sprinters had returned. But it’s very difficult to dislike Torii Bowie who is as modest as they come. Thank God the Jamaicans who have dominated sprints for the past five years did not display that arrogance formerly shown off by the Americans; you know, the snorting and prancing and the huffing and puffing… before the race even began. Bolt put an end to all of that.
There were some bright spots in the games, however. We finally saw the green and yellow emerge for a gold in the 100m hurdles for the men. A Trinidadian was the only Caribbean person to be in the 200m finals and he was good enough for a bronze. Many were touting South Africa’s Wade Van Neikerk as the hair to the throne now vacated by Bolt. He did not have an impressive showing in the 200m finals. Nobody dipped below the 20 second time for the final of that event.
Bolt, Blake and Warren Weir all did sub 20 second times in a final a few years ago. (What happened to Weir since then; has he been snorting at the chalice since then?) The new powers in 200m sprinting are from Turkey via Azerbaijan, South Africa and Trinidad. Although there is no return to U.S. dominance in the sprints, overall the U.S. gathered quite a few medals. They did capture the gold in the One and Two hundred events but don’t expect that to last. The West Africans are coming and so are the Trinis. The Jamaicans definitely will be back.
While on the whole it has been a disappointing and sad World Games for me so far, I expect the Caribbean to have a better showing come the Olympics. The current crop of Jamaican sprinters, with the exception of Blake, Thompson and Shelly-Ann Frasier, are not up to it as yet. Missed is Veronica Campbell Brown who, like Bolt, has finally lost that pep.
Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo had the 400m in hand when the Thompson bug struck her. She seems promising for the 200m although I think Marie will take that. What Guyana will do at the next Olympics requires a separate letter. George did show some “dig-up-cy” in his event but the quality of his training comes into question. So, here’s to Usain Bolt, the fastest and most dominant track and field athlete ever.
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