Mon | Jul 16, 2018

Blake not the first 'Beast' of sprinting

Published:Friday | August 12, 2016 | 12:09 AMHubert Lawrence
Mega sprint stars Usain Bolt (left) and Yohan Blake at Jamaica's recent pre-Olympic Games camp in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


Champion sprinter Yohan Blake has recently shrugged off the nickname 'the Beast', a label he earned because of his relentless hard work in training.

Blake, however, isn't the first double Olympic sprint medal winner to bear the nickname. Thirty-six years ago, Scotland's Allan Wells wore the tag as he approached his Olympic destiny.

In a 2008 interview, the incomparable Usain Bolt is reported to have pinpointed Blake as a sprinter on the rise. "Watch out for Yohan Blake", he said, "he works like a beast." His commitment paid off. Blake secured the 100 metres gold medal at the 2011 World Championships when Bolt false-started and ran strongly to garner silver medals in the 100 and 200 metres in the 2012 Olympic Games.

"When you guys are sleeping at night, I am out there working," Blake once said. "That's why they call me the Beast", he commented. "I work twice as hard as everybody else."

The same applied, in a bygone generation of sprinting, to Wells. While Bolt inadvertently gave Blake the since discarded nickname, Wells got it from the mother of one of his rivals. The Scot rose to prominence in the late 1970s and ran headlong into a European rivalry with Italian Pietro Mennea. The Italian's mother compared his slim son to the muscular Scot and nicknamed him "The Beast".

In 1980, Wells became the second Briton to win the Olympic 100 metres title. In the 200m, he had the lead in the closing stages but Mennea rushed past him to win. Donald Quarrie of Jamaica, the reigning champion, was third. Wells had to wait until the 1982 Commonwealth Games to win a big sprint double.

Blake has recently discarded the 'Beast' label because of negative spiritual connotations. By contrast, Wells reportedly considered it a compliment.