Sun | Feb 25, 2018

Hubert Lawrence | Better to retire on top

Published:Thursday | December 8, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Usain Bolt

Imagine you're Usain Bolt jetting home from the London premiere of I Am Bolt when news of the Nico Rosberg's retirement hits. Five days after clinching the Formula 1 drivers championship, Rosberg stepped out of the cockpit permanently. If you were Bolt, the news of a freshly minted champion heading for the hills at 31 years old probably strengthened the resolve to go off track forever. The German, world champion just once, said he'd reached a lifelong goal.

The tall Jamaican has been World Champion seven times and Olympic champion six times and is just a year younger than Rosberg. His growing lack of motivation is, therefore, understandable. Another sign became evident last week in Monaco at the IAAF Gala when he revealed that he'd given up his favourite event, the 200m.

That announcement made me sit up and take notice. Bolt is even better at 200m than he is at 100m, with three Olympic gold medals, four World Championship golds and a silver tucked away in his trophy case. For him to give that up, he really must be sensing the end. Rosberg's sudden retirement may have convinced Bolt that he is picking the right time to go.

The German made a bit of Formula 1 family history. He and his Finnish father Keke are only the second father and son duo to be champions of that sport's premier circuit racing competition. The British pair Graham and Damon Hill were the first.

The king of retiring on top is Rocky Marciano. Marciano knocked out 43 opponents in a 49-fight heavyweight career and left the ring in 1955 as a world champion with an unblemished record. Between them, Rosberg and Marciano form a great example to Bolt to retire on top.




The tall man has done so much in athletics that no one could blame him if he chose to skip out of the 2017 season. He is the best sprinter in history and stands shoulder to shoulder with Ali, Pele and Jordan in an elite group of the best sportsmen of all time.

His farewell season won't be easy. Many of his 100m rivals are young and ambitious. Don't let the smiles fool you. Andre De Grasse, the 22 year-old Canadian World and Olympic bronze medallist, has a lot to gain from a victory over Bolt in London next year at the World Championships. So does Trayvon Brommell, who tied with De Grasse for bronze at the 2015 Worlds.

Yohan Blake, Jamaica's other 100m World Champion, might be in the mix too. His personal best of 9.69 seconds is faster than Bolt has run since his super run of 9.63 to win the Olympic gold in 2012. Yet, despite the youth of De Grasse and Bromell, the potential Blake still has, and the energy that 35-year-old Justin Gatlin might marshall in what could be his last hurrah, Bolt will be the favourite in London.

That makes perfect sense. Should he close his career there with a win as expected, no one should grudge him his wish to retire. Like Rosberg and Marciano, it is far better for the tall man to walk away on top.

- Hubert Lawrence has watched Bolt at Boys and Girls Championships, the World Championships and the Olympic Games.