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  • Writer's pictureThe Season Ticket

Mortal Bolt's Loss Positive For Athletics

  1. It was the fault of the IAAF and Anti-Doping Bodies that he was even racing in the first place

  2. He was being harshly treated by the crowd for failing a drugs test, despite the fact several athletes at the Games have also failed tests.

  3. The sycophantic BBC commentary, who portrayed Bolt against Gatlin as ‘good vs evil’, were left in mourning, one night after cheering on Mo Farah, who has some doping question marks hanging over him. In truth, it was an episode of great dark comedic effect for those who casually watch athletics. With serious issues of doping in athletics, the plaster had been removed from the wound when Gatlin won. Yet the fact remains that Bolt not only lost to Gatlin, but also lost to young sprinting talent Christian Coleman, who also beat him in the semi-final, the first time he had lost a race since 2013. This was far from vintage Bolt, and proved that Father Time had defeated him just like everybody else. In an era of serious distrust in athletics, it helps make his story more believable. Unlike Mo Farah or Chris Froome and some other athletes that have gone from middle of the road contenders to world beaters in their mid 20s, Bolt was a prestigious talent as a young sprinter, running under 20 seconds for 200 metres at 18, and winning the World Junior Championships and World Youth Championships in dominant fashion. Here was an athlete of unlimited talent, a 6 foot 5 sprinter with the speed, with the fast-twitch speed of an athlete much smaller. While it took him a few years to truly assert himself at the very top, there was still a silver medal at the World Athletics Championships in Osaka in 2007 as a 21-year-old. Then came Usain Bolt’s breakout games, the 2008 Olympics where he broke the world record in the 100 metres and 200 metres. In the 100 metres final, he appeared to slow down before the line to celebrate…and still ran 9.69. The 2009 World Championships in Berlin was Usain Bolt’s defining moment. He won the 100 metres in 9.58 seconds, the 200 metres in 19.19 seconds. Two world records that will not be broken for a long, long time. By this stage he was 23, and at the peak of his powers. There was crazy speculation as to what times Bolt could run next, such was the perceived effortless nature of his running. But that was as good as it got for Bolt. He still won races with relative ease, and always had enough even in gradual decline. His 9.81 to win the gold medal at the Olympics last year was the slowest of his Olympics titles for the 100 metres. In this year’s final, he made a poor start. He was always a mediocre starter; it was when he hit top speed that he left his rivals for dead. In the heat, he ran over 10 seconds where he had to strain himself, he once ran 9.9 showboating to the crowd. In the final, he made a similarly slow start. But there was no extra gear that he often drew upon. He ran 9.95, by far the slowest of all his major finals. It was a strangely mortal performance but there is also a reason why he is retiring. His best days are behind him. And that’s fine. Nothing of Bolt’s legacy changed significantly after last night. He still holds almost unbeatable records. He has 8 Olympic Gold Medals, 11 World Championship Gold medals. He still wowed athletics like no other, and his charismatic personality helped sell his sport. It may have lost his final race, but that’s sport. It would be boring if it was always a happy ending. In the post-Bolt era, athletics can’t hide away from its doping problems. It can’t hide behind one transcendent star if it’s going to survive in the public consciousness. And if the sport looks closer at how the likes of Gatlin can win, then that’s also a positive thing.

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