Is Bolt running from losing?
The mystery surrounding the status and form of world sprint superstar Usain Bolt intensified last weekend when the double Olympic sprint champion failed to turn up at the Jamaica national championships.
The initial impression was given by Bolt himself after one of the mediocre performances when he hinted that, despite not needing to, he was considering running at the trials because he needs more races to get the sharpness necessary to defend his titles in Beijing in late August.
Then the news came that Bolt's name was indeed on the preliminary list of entrants for the shorter sprint, only to learn that the day before the event the big man was not entered on the final start list. As it is, the trials came and went without him.
Being one of the first persons to identify and admit that Bolt was in trouble with his form this season, I went as far as to make the unpopular pronouncement that the big Jamaican will lose his 100-metre World title to the American, Justin Gatlin, in Beijing, which at the time brought accusations of my being disloyal, unpatriotic and even committing treason. From that perspective, I am disappointed, but not very surprised by this latest turn of events.
hope vs reality
Several weeks on and with the problems of Bolt still obviously unsolved, I hope a lot of the emotionalism surrounding this issue has dissipated and that Jamaicans can now look and see objectively the difference between hope and reality.
Bolt is an absolute phenomenon, but he is human and he obviously needs much more work, and specifically, the competition to be had, only by competing in more races.
Why then would he give up such a great opportunity to get at least two solid races under his belt, as was on offer at the Jamaica championships?
The advent of the new coming of Asafa Powell must be a factor. Without the threat of losing to an in-form Powell, I think Bolt would have competed at the championships. It is fair game, I think, to extrapolate by the way the situation unfolded that Bolt could be 'running' from Powell.
The fact of the matter, though, is Bolt, at this stage of his career, is much more than an athlete. He is a global brand which translates into a lucrative business enterprise.
Having achieved the status he has, protecting and preserving his legacy is of the utmost importance to him and his management team.
In that context, maybe the best thing for Bolt right now is to pull out of the entire 2015 season, including missing the World Championships.
In light of what is happening with his rivals Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and even now Powell, where they all pose a genuine threat to his titles, and with the task of him scrambling into title-winning shape proving to be more difficult than initially thought, instead of exposing himself to losing and all the negatives attached, the option is always open to Bolt and his camp to turn to that old excuse of his bad back.
Organise a trip or two to his famous German doctor and declare the big man injured. The world would never know for sure.
Start the preparation for the Rio Olympics immediately, get into tip-top, unbeatable shape and go out with a bang, legacy intact.
What is happening now with Bolt is farcical. It is difficult to conclude anything else except that he is running from losing.
While we would all love to see him race the best the world has to offer, there is clear and present danger this season of him doing major damage to his substantial legacy.
Bolt has nothing more to prove, he has done it all, and won it all, earning the right to go out on his terms. In the long run, the disappointment of not seeing the big clash between himself and Gatlin in Beijing will eventually pale in comparison to the bigger picture of maintaining the substantial legacy of the legend Usain Bolt.