Wed | Aug 15, 2018

Hubert Lawrence | Who will replace Bolt?

Published:Thursday | December 1, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Canada's Andre De Grasse (left) and Jamaica's Usain Bolt.
Yohan Blake

Now that Usain Bolt's incomparable career is approaching its final chapter, the question Jamaican sports fans are asking most frequently is who will replace him?

The answer is most likely that no one will precisely replicate the tall man's combination of athletic ability and Brand Jamaican charm. There is, after all, only one Usain Bolt.

From a global point of view, Canada's Andre De Grasse seems to be the next great sprinter. He has sped from obscurity to sparkle on the US college circuit with a big NCAA 2015 sprint double and 100-metre bronze medals at the World Championships last year and the recently concluded Olympics. He was a respectful second to Bolt over 200 metres at the Olympics.

Three years ago, he lost to 2012 World Junior 100 metre bronze medallist Odean Skeen in the US Junior College championship. Now the slim Canadian is the heir apparent.




From a Jamaican perspective, a fully fit and sharp Yohan Blake would wear the mantle comfortably. Were he to regain top speed, his personal bests of 9.75 and 19.26 seconds for 100 and 200 metres respectively would place the 26 year-old Blake in pole position. He has already made progress after repeated injuries in 2013 and 2014.

Kemar Bailey-Cole, the 2014 Commonwealth champion, has had his share for injuries. Good health and better starts are needed for him to take up the mantle. Skeen and Olympic 4x100 gold medal winner Jevaughn Minzie could both be in the mix in the next few years.

Three-time World finalist Nickel Ashmeade, Commonwealth champion Rasheed Dwyer, a fit-again Jason Young, 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Warren Weir, all 19.8 men; and the unlucky Julian Forte will keep Jamaica in the thick of things at 200 metres. Forte is just 23. All of them could have more to give.

Senoj-Jay Givans, who broke 10 seconds in the 100 in 2016, might be in the mix too.

Further down the line are new professional Nigel Ellis, Raheem Chambers, recently departed from St Jago to Auburn University, Jhevaughn Matherson of Kingston College, and three Calabar High School speed merchants who have dominated at Boys and Girls' Championships in the last few years. Ellis did the double for St Elizabeth Technical at Champs this year and sprinted to third in the 200 at the World Under-20 Championships. World Under-20 100 finalist Chambers, and the gifted Matherson were second and third to Ellis in the 100 at Champs.

The fast Calabar boys - Dejour Russell, Tyreke Wilson, who ran 21.72 seconds for 200 metres into a 2.7 metre per second headwind at Champs in 2014, and Michael Stephens all have eye-popping potential.

The question - who will replace Bolt? - comes because the tall man from Trelawny has led Jamaica through a golden era. The medal count in the last three Olympics has stood at 11 with six gold in 2008, 12 with four gold in 2012 and 11 with five gold this year. Jamaica's medal haul at the 2009 Worlds was 13 with seven gold, with last year's team winning 12 overall with seven gold.

Before the golden era, the highest Olympic medal take by Jamaica was nine, at the 2000 Games.

Bolt has been immense with six consecutive sprint doubles at the Olympics and seven individual gold medals at the World Championship. Throw in world record sprint doubles at the 2008 Olympics and the 2009 Worlds and the question takes on an unreasonable tone.

If what is really required is someone to dominate the way Bolt has, then it may be too much to ask. As shown above, Jamaica at present has several world-class male sprinters with more to come. There is, however, no one quite like Bolt.

• Hubert Lawrence has made notes at trackside since 1980.