FILE PHOTO: 2016 Rio Olympics – Athletics – Ultimate – Males’s 200m Ultimate – Olympic Stadium – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – 18/08/2016. Usain Bolt (JAM) of Jamaica celebrates after profitable gold. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photograph
July 27, 2021
By Mitch Phillips
TOKYO (Reuters) – Usain Bolt bestrode athletics as a colossus for a decade however his retirement in 2017 left an enormous publicity void the game has struggled to fill, regardless of a succession of fantastic performances by a string of richly-talented athletes.
Bolt’s mixture of unimaginable velocity, big-race supply and joyous character helped guarantee athletics maintained its place because the primary sport of the Olympics, with the 100 metres, which the Jamaican gained 3 times alongside three 200m golds, absolutely the blue riband occasion of each Video games.
Changing him as such a crowd and sponsor-pleasing draw was all the time going to be a troublesome, probably inconceivable, problem as athletics fights an more and more troublesome battle for TV rankings.
The game has all the time had a barely uncomfortable inside relationship between observe and subject, with the runners typically hogging the limelight whereas the throwers, jumpers and vaulters battle for recognition, in each sense.
At his peak Bolt was most likely the world’s most recognisable sportsperson and positively some of the marketable. In distinction, the 2 2020 Athletes of the yr have been Swedish pole vaulter Mondo Duplantis and Venezuelan triple jumper Yulimar Rojas.
Each had magnificent, world-record breaking seasons and are huge names of their homelands however, partly due to the “second-fiddle” nature of their occasions, their names stay largely unknown to most people.
There’s a related problem with the marathon, the place Eliud Kipchoge is undoubtedly on the similar stage as Bolt when it comes to domination of an iconic occasion.
His breaking of the two-hour barrier, albeit “unofficial”, put him on the entrance pages in 2019 and the world file holder will definitely be large information when he defends his Olympic title in Sapporo. But, the marathon stays one thing of an occasion for purists and although Kipchoge is a humble, considerate and articulate man, his wider profile stays comparatively modest.
There isn’t any getting away from the truth that sprints stay the most important draw and World Athletics and the Worldwide Olympic Committee should have been rubbing their fingers collectively in glee on the emergence of Sha’Carri Richardson.
Flamboyant, assured, outspoken on social media and massively proficient, the 21-year-old American blew by way of the game this yr in a whirlwind of blue hair and nails and appeared set to be the main target of a thousand digital camera lenses in Tokyo, solely to incur a ban for smoking marijuana in the course of the U.S. trials final month.
Additionally watching from residence within the States would be the reigning 100m world champion Christian Coleman, banned for 18 months after lacking three medicine exams.
The excellent news for the TV firms and their potential audiences is that there’ll nonetheless be loads of different nice athletes on the beginning line in Tokyo.
Trayvon Bromell seems to be a sizzling favorite to take the 100 metres title again to America for the primary time since 2004, whereas compatriot Noah Lyles is hoping to displace Bolt within the 200m.
On the ladies’s facet, Shelly-Anne Fraser Pryce, who gained 100m gold in 2008 and 2012, in some way finds herself favorite to finish a hat-trick on the age of 34 after posting a lifetime greatest 10.63 seconds final month, a time overwhelmed solely by the late Florence Griffiths Joyner.
American Allyson Felix goes within the 400m in search of a tenth Olympic medal – and seventh gold – as she seems in her fifth Video games on the age of 35.
Norway’s Karsten Warholm runs each 400m hurdles race as if he’s attempting to interrupt the world file and final month he lastly did. Within the girls’s occasion, Sydney McLaughlin additionally set a world file final month and her duel with compatriot Dalilah Muhammad, whose file she took, could possibly be one of many Tokyo highlights.
It’s a related scenario within the girls’s 10,000 metres, the place Letesenbet Gidey of Ethiopia and Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan each broke the world file inside three days of one another in June.
Ethiopia-born Hassan is considering a seemingly loopy “Tokyo Triple” of 10,000m, 5,000m and 1,500m, an achievement that may earn her a spot on the all-time prime desk of Olympic athletics, the place Bolt would, little question graciously, shuffle over to make room.
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, modifying by Ed Osmond)