Thu | May 25, 2017

Start of the end of Bolt era

Published:Thursday | October 30, 2014 | 10:00 AM
Jamaica's Nickel Ashmeade (second left) hands the baton to Usain Bolt while American Justin Gatlin (right) collects the baton from Rakieem Salaam on the final changeover in the men's sprint relay at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow, Russia on August 18, 2013. Jamaica won in 37.36 seconds, with the United States second in 37.66. file

In Daegu, London and Moscow, Usain Bolt has closed the show with electrifying anchor legs in the 4x100 metres. His speed and star power brought the 2011 World Championships, the 2012 Olympics and the 2013 Worlds, respectively, to breathtaking climaxes. That sequence has come to an end.

At the 2015 World Championships, the men's 4x400 metres relay will be the last track event.

That change ends a very successful experiment. After Bolt's brilliance at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the Berlin World Championships in 2009, it made sense to put the 4x100 at the end of the biggest meets.

That meant shifting the 4x400 from its traditional meet-closing slot. More importantly, it meant that Bolt opened the meet and ended it. The experiment worked.

In Daegu, Bolt ran like lightning to close a world record 37.04 seconds. In London, Jamaica and the USA staged a thrilling high-speed duel. Bolt rescued the win as Jamaica broke the 37-second barrier with another world record of 36.84 seconds. He helped Jamaica to win last year in Moscow, by dilly-dallying past Justin Gatlin, who had wandered into Jamaica's lane.

The tall man's presence in the 100m, the first big event of those three majors, and the last one, the 4x100m relay, made sure they started AND finished on a high note. The 2015 schedule change brings an end to that.

1952 Helsinki meet

The men's 4x400 has often brought big meets to an end with world records. Jamaica's Helsinki quartet set one in an exciting duel with the USA in the 1952 Olympics. Since then, the Americans have done the same seven times in the Olympics.

Famously, the record tumbled in 1968 with Lee Evans on anchor and in 1992 with Steve Lewis closing. In 1993, with Michael Johnson finishing at the World Championship, the record was cut and carved to two minutes, 54.29 seconds.

Traditionalists rankled at the change in the first place and will feel that the natural order has been restored.

Even so, the change makes you wonder. Is the sport preparing for Bolt's impending retirement after the 2017 season? Is this the start of the end of the Bolt era? Or should we just enjoy him while he's still here?

After all, there were reports that attendance at the Diamond League was down this year because he was largely absent.

As things stand, Bolt will be busy in Beijing. The 100m will be run on days one and two. After a rest on day four, he will go in the 200m heats, semis and finals on days four, five and six. The 4x100m final is on day eight.

If the 2015 World Championship schedule isn't amended, the only way Bolt can close the show in Beijing is to run the 4x400m final on August 30, the ninth day of the championships. We all 'know' that isn't ever going to happen.

Hubert Lawrence watched Bolt win the Boys' Champs Class Two 200m and 400m double at GC Foster College in 2002.