PREPARING FOR LIFE WITHOUT USAIN BOLT

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A post by Peter Jordens.

At the recent Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Usain Bolt said: “I’ve proven to the world I’m the greatest. This is what I came here for. That’s what I’m doing. This is why I said this is my last Olympics — I can’t prove anything else.” Now the world must prepare for life without him.

Sebastian Coe, former British track and field athlete and President of the IAAF, writes for The Telegraph: Not since Muhammad Ali has a sportsperson grabbed the public imagination across every continent like Usain Bolt. What other sportsman or woman has managed to transcend not only their own discipline, but sport as a whole in the manner that Bolt has? That is a great thing for athletics to be able to say, and we will forever treasure him because he is a genius. […] This is not the end of the story because – all being well – he will compete at the World Championships in London next year, which would be a fitting send-off should he decide it is the right moment to bow out of the sport. As and when that happens, it leaves us at the International Association of Athletics Federations with a task on our hands to prepare for life without him. […] It will not be easy, but we are well aware it is something we must do. I have actually had a number of very promising conversations with Bolt over the past couple of years about him taking on a role inside the sport whenever he decides to move on to other things. That is something that is very important, and we have to make sure we persuade him to devote some time to athletics in more than just an ambassadorial role. He has so much to offer. When it comes to the challenge of replacing him on the track, I was in Jamaica not long ago and it was pointed out to me that every schoolboy record which Bolt had set – with the exception of one – has now been broken. So it would point to a fairly healthy lineage out there. Perhaps the next Usain Bolt is already out there in Jamaica.

Meanwhile, Sean Gregory of Time writes: Where does the sport Bolt has defined for a generation go from here? Perhaps no star, in any sport, will be more difficult to replace. Bolt’s by far the biggest draw in track and field: the Rio Olympic Stadium was packed and hyped on the nights Bolt ran, but eerily quiet when he wasn’t on stage. […] Bolt, never one to lack confidence, knows he ends his Olympic career with a secure legacy. “I’ve just proven to the world that you can do it clean,” says Bolt. “I’ve made the sport exciting, I’ve made people want to see the sport, and I’ve made people want to watch the sport. I’ve just put the sport on a different level.”

Barney Roney of The Guardian adds: Farewell then Usain St Leo Bolt, also known as Lightning, also known (but only to his mum) as “VJ” and now also known for as long as anyone cares to keep measuring these things as the greatest track and field athlete ever. […] [… Why] retire now? [… This] is perhaps a simple case of an athlete with nothing left to prove, set now on following the money in whatever peak earning years he has left. Bolt is currently the 32nd best paid athlete in the world, with an annual income of $32.5m putting him just below Gareth Bale, just above Serena Williams. […] Why keep punishing the body after all these years? This is an athlete who has in the most basic sense outgrown his own sport. A final world championships in London await next year. The Olympics will roll on regardless. New stars will emerge, albeit shadowed now by the memory of that gloriously uplifting figure in green and yellow, always moving away, always raising the limits of the possible.

Brian Lewis concludes for the New York Post: Bolt has maintained since February he will retire after next year’s World Championships. If he does walk away, he’ll take a golden era of track with him. He’ll leave behind the likes of Canadian Andre De Grasse, American Trayvon Bromell and a host of other fine young talents, who just aren’t Bolt. […] “A great sprinter,” acknowledged Tyson Gay, who was dethroned by Bolt in 2008 as the world’s top sprinter. “Nine gold medals, words can’t even describe what he’s done for the sport.” He has breathed life into it. He has made it fun. And he has been the greatest ever.

Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images: “Usain Bolt soaks up the crowd’s adulation in Rio after anchoring Jamaica to victory in the 4x100m to secure his ninth Olympic gold medal.”

 

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