Sun | Aug 19, 2018

Foster's Fairplay | Bolt's legacy will endure

Published:Tuesday | May 30, 2017 | 10:39 AM

The ever-widening band of track and field fans is being asked to stomach two events scheduled for this year. They will not necessarily be greeted with much happiness. On the contrary, a considerable amount of sorrow could be their companion. Yes, your guess is correct, as the legend Usain Bolt, based on his own announcements, will be bidding local and global farewell to the tracks which he has graced with compelling distinction for 15 years. The goodbye locales will be the JN/Racers Grand Prix on June 10 in Kingston and the XVI IAAF World Championships in Athletics, London, England, August 4-13.

It all started in 2002 in Kingston, where the country boy phenomenon-in-embryo sped to World Junior Championships top-of-the-podium status in the 200m, giving at the end, a military salute to the crowd which the performance itself equally deserved. He was to take down an outstanding World Junior record as a 17-year-old in 2004, posting a stunning 19.93. Later that year, there was disaster at the Athens Olympics, where he failed to advance from the opening round. Then came more misery at the 2005 Helsinki World Champs, this time making the final, but eighth place was his disappointing reward. Many expectations, which were maybe too ambitious, were shattered.

Even before that, after the Athens debacle, someone took stock and found that the child prodigy was not on the right path. His new coach, the sprinter's dream, Glen Mills, turned the boy into a man - no more Junior competition - although he was age-agreeable. In Helsinki, he was learning, but the new paradigm did not kick in until Beijing 2008, and the rest is written in the pages of history in a chapter titled 'Legends of Track & Field'


Now the master is exiting the scene and, from several corners, comes the tale of the influence he can still wield over the sport. Lord Sebastian Coe, the president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), has come out in stentorian terms, asking, to use the words of Foster's Fairplay, "Farewell faithful fellow, but can we hold on to a piece of you?" It is for the departing track and field icon to choose the area in which he desires to serve after putting away his gears. What a privilege this is. Hopefully, he will accept.


Further to his lordship's invitation, another message of a different colour, is being sent. It articulates the doom and gloom to be visited on the sport when the big man steps away. Track and field fans are being told to brace themselves for a massive fallout as there can never be another Bolt. Foster's Fairplay has a different view. To slip into cricket gear, has there been a replica of the great Sir Donald Bradman, whose batting exploits still stand like monuments cast in bronze, never to be touched, let alone surpassed? The game's progress as a spectacle did not falter but remained intact and flourishing in his absence. Hasn't football sustained its aesthetic appeal, even in the absence of arguably the best ever, the magnificent Brazilian, Pele?

So why then should track and field creak at the joints for the departure of the undisputed hero from Beijing, London and Rio? Add Berlin to that as the venue of the still standing fantastic, mind-boggling world records, which for their brilliance, could very well be tainted in controversy as time goes by.

Feats, such as those attained by Usain Bolt, are rooted in existing preparatory aspects, in addition to his own obviously insurmountable skills. He is not expected to take that culture with him, as they are fixed assets. One of the chief among them is that productive model or system through which Jamaica's athletes pass to stardom. There have been coaches who learnt either by tutelage at the G.C. Foster College of Physical Education & Sports or on the job from their mentors. Then, there is Champs and all that it entails. Thankfully, they will remain in place to create other phenomena of the Bolt mould. Foster's Fairplay has not heard a negative word to suggest that all the positives in this arena will follow the star into retirement.

Bolt's remarkable successes should be the catalyst to create more of his kind, as one can be sure that they do exist.
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