Mon | Dec 18, 2017

Foster's Fairplay | Bolt a hard act to follow

Published:Tuesday | August 8, 2017 | 12:00 AMLaurie Foster
Usain Bolt

It was the end of an era of sheer excellence on Saturday when the undisputed greatest sprinter of all time, Usain Bolt called time on his individual competition career at the 16th IAAF World Championships in Athletics at the Olympic Park in London.

It did not end with the gold medal predicted by several including himself. However, that hiccup was lost on the multitude of the sport’s fans who had packed themselves in to say a golden farewell to the man who had thrilled them with his tremendous and unprecedented fleetness of foot and theatrical antics.

He still has another job to perform for his country, in seeking victory in the 4x100m relay later in the program. In that regard, and with a less potent squad than existed in recent years, hopefully he will be asked to do both rounds of the event. Following that, the world’s hero will, like the cowboys of old, “ride off into the sunset” to pursue some of the several “carrots” which now dangle in front of him.

From reports and announcements in the public space and one is confident others kept close to the big man’s chest, he will be hard pressed to accept them all. The demand is such that he will have to sidestep a few.

At this point, Foster’s Fairplay is not concerned with his choice of activity post competition. He has assembled a group of handlers who it is deemed will afford him the best advice in examining the options before making those decisions. Instead the focus is on what the country’s sporting icon has left behind.

At a time when he had all his thoughts on the 200m as the event for life, Bolt’s reaction to coach Glen Mills suggestion, that he try the 400m, was a complete rejection. Another icon in the sport, Michael Johnson had voiced the same opinion, saying that it was necessary to complement his greatness. That too suffered the same fate. His own feeling was that he should go for the shorter sprint, was put to Mills.

However, the ace coach was doubtful of success, given the six foot five inch frame of his young charge. The outcome to those exchanges as well as what followed starting with two world records in 2008, has brought about the quality of the legacy he now leaves.

The man who the world acknowledges to be a legend, has given track and field a new face. The support for the sport has mushroomed substantially as seen in the size of crowds that flock to venues just for an opportunity to see him put on a show.

His pre and post race drills have reorganised the thought that a grim and tension-filled demeanour is essential for proper focus. His making the sign of the cross and pointing to the sky while sitting in the blocks, are not only emulated by young athletes, but have leaked into other sports.

A reason often given why Bolt needed another event to achieve true greatness, was that the 200m did not have the glamour and attention for him to attain that goal. Adding the 400m or as he eventually did, the 100m, would be the only route to stardom. Foster’s Fairplay begs to differ. The athlete whose outstanding career we now celebrate, was extremely blessed.

His endearing personality and expression of self are so impressive that they would, in the opinion of this columnist, bring recognition to any event in which he chose to lend his presence. Based on what we have seen from the master over time, the 200m would have taken on his image and receive similar acclaim to that which Bolt himself enjoyed.

There are those who would wish for Bolt, to “give us another year or two.” Even Gatlin in a post race congratulatory moment, issued the invitation. He should reject that. For all his worth, he is not known to revel in the hard work, he would need, at this age, to stave off the young guns eager to unsettle him from his lofty heights. They would be lining up to take a piece of the world’s most decorated.

Let the greatest ever keep heading into well deserved retirement. He has done his shift.

He has left a tough act for others to follow.

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