Sun | Jan 19, 2020

Tanya Lee | Say less, Yohan

Published:Friday | December 13, 2019 | 12:35 AM

What a week it has been in the world of track and field, which is typically quiet at this time of year as athletes have only begun pre-season preparations for 2020.

Yohan Blake is now dominating headlines after what I consider an ill-fated interview that he did with the Times of India earlier this month.

In the interview which has since become viral, Blake expressed that he feels that he has been overshadowed by Usain Bolt during the early parts of his career.

“If you take Bolt away from the picture, I will be the fastest man in the world. I was born at the wrong time,” he said, among other eyebrow-raising pronouncements.

Blake’s analysis of being overshadowed by Bolt is, in many respects, correct. The greatest athlete in track-and-field history was so dominant and had such immense personality on the track that he dwarfed the accomplishments and persona of many of his rivals. It’s in much the same way that Michael Jordan overshadowed everyone in his heyday, including his talented teammate Scottie Pippen.

Bolt overshadowed Blake. He also overshadowed Asafa Powell, Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay, and many other great sprinters who would have lined up in the starting blocks beside him.

But what is missing from Blake’s analysis is how much Bolt would have also contributed to his immense accomplishments before his injuries and placed him in greater spotlight than he would have received without Bolt. Blake is the second-fastest man in history over the 100 and 200m, yes, but these achievements may not have been possible without such a strong training partner as Usain Bolt. Iron sharpens iron.

Many athletes who competed during the heights of Bolt’s career ran the fastest times of their career as well. Maybe Blake could see Bolt’s influence as having contributed to his own success, in much the same way that Blake also contributed to Bolt taking his training more seriously after being beaten at the National Trials on more than one occasion.

Bolt and Blake

It’s no secret that Bolt and Blake don’t have a personal relationship, even though they shared the same camp at Racers for many seasons. A few persons I have spoken with have shared that they consider this strange. I’m not sure why this would baffle anyone; many persons don’t see eye to eye with their co-workers with whom they share the same office space day in and day out. In the world of sports, athletes are often competing for the same spoils and it is not realistic to expect them to all break bread off the track.

But while Blake and Bolt’s back-and-forth has become social-media gold this week, I have so many other important questions about that interview.

First, why is Blake travelling and campaigning for road safety awareness during preseason. I would prefer to see him in training as preparations get under way for the final test of his career, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Second, he has, once again, made pronouncements about what he intends to do this season, as he does every season. If I were part of his management team, I would suggest that the talented sprinter get on with the business of running, heap less pressure on himself, and say less during his interviews.

The most cringe-worthy aspect of Blake’s interview was his take on females in athletics. Blake commented on what he perceives to be a decision to add more women’s events to track and field at the Tokyo Olympics next summer. The only event that has been added is the mixed relay 4x400m event.

“[It’s a] very stupid decision,” Blake said on December 3. “It’s all right to promote women but not this way. God made men to be stronger, then why stop us from running?”

These remarks are strange and unfounded. The 4x400m relay will be a mix of both male and female athletes. I wish Blake all the best, but I would caution him to say less and take it all out on the track. In Sports, that’s where it matters most. One Love.

Tanya Lee has over 10 years’ expertise as a Caribbean sports marketer and is also an athlete manager and publicist.