Thursday 22 March 2018

Bolt's golden treble only show in town

Jamaica's Usain Bolt after the men's 4x100metre relay during day nine of the 2013 IAAF World Athletics Championships
Jamaica's Usain Bolt after the men's 4x100metre relay during day nine of the 2013 IAAF World Athletics Championships

Ian Chadband

He tried his hand at a spot of celebratory barefoot Cossack dancing in the Luzhniki Stadium and almost tumbled flat on his back.

It was the only failure of yet another landmark week for Usain Bolt, as he emerged as the most successful athlete in the 30-year history of the World Championships.

By anchoring his Jamaican sprint relay quartet to a familiar coruscating and conclusive triumph in the final event, Bolt was able to savour yet another golden sprint treble, astonishingly the fourth time he has achieved the feat in the past five global championships.

It brought his World Championship tally to eight golds and two silvers, superseding a trio of US sprinters – Carl Lewis and Allyson Felix (eight golds, one silver, one bronze) and Michael Johnson (eight golds).

As he clowned around the arena, having Moscow eating out of his hand as effortlessly as he had London, Daegu, Berlin and Beijing swooning before, it felt almost impossible to credit that this joker had just concluded perhaps the most astounding five-year spell of athletics achievement – 14 golds and seven world records in five global championships.

Did he care? "No," responded the king of cool. "I'm not really worried about counting medals."

He is only worried about winning. This time, helped by Nesta Carter, Kemar Bailey-Cole and Nickel Ashmeade – who filled three of the four places behind him in the 100m final – the Jamaicans waltzed the relay in 37.36 seconds.

When Bolt took the baton at about the same moment as Justin Gatlin made a bit of a mess of grasping America's, it was still a race.

Yet once a man timed at 8.8 seconds for the flying 100m in this equivalent race in Daegu two years ago sped off, who on earth could get close? He took 0.3 seconds out of Gatlin, the Americans clocking 37.66 seconds.

Bolt's phenomenal anchoring has become as entrenched an athletic tradition as the great British relay calamity.

His only problem now is that he has spoilt us so much, you can feel a creeping sense of the sports world now becoming almost blase about his dominance. His winning times in each event here were the slowest in his five-year reign – this was the first championship since the worlds in Osaka in 2007 that he set no new world record.

Only with Bolt could this possibly be even remotely a story. He gives the world magic but, still, the world demands more, urging him to do something even more mind-boggling, to try something else.

So, this weekend, the old questions about 'what next?' kept coming following his 200m triumph on Saturday. How about the 400m? Or the long jump?

Or a central midfield role for Manchester United?

Somebody even asked here if he might be in line for a Nobel Peace prize, which Bolt obviously felt was so mad that he ought to try to start World War III by suggesting to his hosts that these championships had been "not the best" and that Russians did not smile enough. Mind you, he added cheerily, "there are a lot of beautiful women here."


Bolt is content with his lot. The long jump for the future? Forget it, he said. "I am so tall, I could get knee injuries. I can't mess around getting injured." Nothing, he adds, will distract him from attempting the triple-triple in Rio 2016 – three golds at three successive Olympics.

As for more individual world records, the widespread assumption now is that his peak has been passed and that he will never surpass the 9.58 seconds for 100m and 19.19 seconds for 200m he recorded in Berlin four years ago.

Bolt rules out nothing but conceded: "It does get harder every year you get older. I keep pushing myself but the more you run, the harder it is."

Without the banned Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell around, and with his training partner Yohan Blake injured, it has looked too simple for him. He admits he needs Blake to help him remain the sport's greatest attraction. "The rest of the athletes have just got to step up."

Mo Farah may have stolen a little of his thunder while there were a few emerging stars to enthuse about, like the Frenchman Teddy Tamgho recording the fourth longest triple jump in history yesterday, 18.04m, and a few of the older guard like Jamaican triple gold medallist, sprint queen Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

Yet Bolt is still the best show in town. His birthday is on Wednesday – he will still only be 27. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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