Foster's Fairplay | Bolt, the best man for AOY award
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), leading the voices of the main stakeholders, has added to the legendary status that Jamaica's mega star, Usain Bolt, has taken unto himself.
Just when the triple-treble Olympic gold medal winner is pointing his face towards the exit door, he has been decorated with a record-breaking sixth title as the male Athlete of the Year (AOY). The 2017 World Championships in London, as he has said on a few occasions, will be his final outing. His last hurrah locally will be the Racers Grand Prix in the same year.
Also coming from the big man is a foray into what could be an even more starry showcase of his talent-filled portfolio, topping his already established world acclaimed performances on the track. This is in reference to his suggestion that a career in the world of cinema entertainment is in his future.
As is the case when selections of this nature are concerned, the usual controversy has surfaced. It has been mooted that the prestigious title should have gone to the Rio Olympics 400 metres champion, the South African, Wayde van Niekerk. This has come from knowledgeable individuals in the sport. With this in mind, their opinion bears a look see. Jamaicans will well recall a blistering 300m race at the Racers Grand Prix this year. It
was specifically requested by none other than many-time global gold medallist, USA's LaShawn Merritt, who saw it as a useful addition to his preparation, as he looked to Rio. The Beijing 2015 world champion humbled the American, to post an African record of 31.03 seconds. Boasting 100m speed with 9.98 at altitude and 20.02 over the half lap distance, his 43.03-second world record this August should have been no surprise. It is this world best ever, beating 43.18 set by USA juggernaut Michael Johnson at the 1999 Seville champs, that the new Olympic champion's supporters are citing to strengthen their claim for the top IAAF award spot for their boy. Also, in an attempt to further embellish that near-42-point clocking, they do not fail to remind the Bolt supporters that the previous mark was touted to be unbeatable for the foreseeable future.
Foster's Fairplay has time for the van Niekerk argument but stops short of championing his cause to receive the award ahead of the Trelawny-born sprinting phenomenon. This columnist urges them to stage a memory jog. Was not Johnson's 200m mark of 19.32, set at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, similarly accepted as unattainable for several years to come? But it was Bolt who shattered it at the 2008 Beijing Olympics breakout of Jamaica's latest cavalcade of sprinting stars. It was further lowered to 19.19 at the Berlin Champs the following year. This point is made to discount the position that the 43.18 and, so, too, the 19.32 fall into the esteemed category that the South African's campaign team would want them to be.
In support of Bolt's award, which is viewed here as deserving, given the quality of his fellow nominees, van Niekerk being just one, Foster's Fairplay obviously takes into account the three Rio gold medals. There is no intention, however, in adducing arguments to qualify him, to limit the world's fastest human being to that. There is a school of thought that completing the third leg of the triple golden achievement should not count for much, since it is an accumulation of performances over an eight-year stretch. Nothing more should be said on this false premise other than that the unprecedented feat which cemented his legendary label would not have been confirmed without the Rio input. It took discipline and dedication to go through the rigours of preparation to come to that point, no less than that which van Niekerk would have endured to get to his admittedly sensational performance.
That said, it would not be feasible to rank the Jamaican below the South African in an exercise in which the award-worthy credentials are being counted.
The IAAF, in the view of this columnist, is spot on.
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