Mon | May 25, 2020

Bolt to the rescue

Published:Wednesday | December 31, 1969 | 7:00 PM

Just as Jamaica was reeling from the bad news about Howard Aris, some good news from Usain Bolt lifted the gloom a little.

The ink on the Aris headlines wasn't yet dry when the tall man asked a moment of silence in honour of the former Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) president at the International Athletics Foundation (IAF) Grand Gala, which announced the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) male and female World Athlete of the Year. Then came the good news. He intends to run the 4x400 at the London Olympics.

He will be very busy if he follows through on helping the 4x400 team to improve on the bronze medal it won in Daegu at the 2011 World Championships. The Olympic schedule makes things easy for him at the beginning, but it gets tough at the end.

If he really wants to help Jamaica win the 4x400, he will have to run at least once on each on the last five days of the Games.

The 100 ends on day three, but when the 200 starts on day five, he has the semis on day six, the final on day seven, the 4x400 final on day eight and the 4x100 final on day nine.

The twist

That's the twist in the tail. Before the IAAF seemingly built the Daegu schedule around Bolt with the 4x100 last, the 4x400 was always the last event on the schedule at international meets. Under those conditions, 100/200 specialists would be tempted to run the 4x400 because all the other events were gone.

Katrin Krabbe, double world sprint champion, ran the 4x400 for Germany in 1991 and Gwen Torrence did it for the USA in the 1992 Olympics and the 1993 World Championships.

Things are different now and when he and his coach, sprint guru Glen Mills, read the schedule, they may have second thoughts. The question they must answer is whether they want him to be more tired than usual when the 4x100 comes around.

When Bolt ran a phenomenal 44-flat anchor leg at the 2010 Gibson Relays, it was his first really hard effort in a year he and Mills programmed to be easy. That was just the first of two 2010 clues that his youthful promise in the 400 might be fulfilled.

Weeks after he set a National Stadium record of 19.56 seconds for the 200 at the Jamaica Invitational, he dropped the second clue on a rain-soaked night in Ostrava. He ran 300 metres in 30.97 seconds, the number-two clocking in the rarely run event of all time.

Only Michael Johnson has ever run faster at that distance.
The clues add up to Bolt being a big asset to the Jamaican 4x400 team, but there is a note of caution. His Gibson 44-flat laid him out with exhaustion and reports suggest that he was worn out for days. Presumably, he'll be in better shape in London.
There is another option, but it might cost Bolt the chance to match Carl Lewis as a winner of four Olympic gold medals in one Games. Jamaica won the Daegu 4x100 in world-record time WITHOUT Asafa Powell, who is one of the sport's finest anchor men.

More than a producer of 74 sub-10 times in the 100, Asafa salvaged the silver in the 2007 Worlds with an 8.8 anchor. Now almost 29, he stormed an 8.7 in the Beijing Olympics and stepped away from Olympic silver medallist Richard Thompson with an 8.8 in the 2009 World Championships.

Bolt's best anchor legs are in that same range.

With a fit Asafa, World Champion Yohan Blake, Daegu finalist Nesta Carter who is the fourth fastest man of all time, the improving Michael Frater, 9.95 man Mario Forsythe, World University Games winner Jacques Harvey and two-time world junior champion Dexter Lee, Jamaica conceivably could win the 4x100 without the tall man. That is something for the Olympic coaching staff to consider, just in case he's tired after the 4x400.

Bolt is super and if anyone can do an Olympic 100/200/4x400/4x100 quadruple, he can. If, however, Howard Aris were still here, he would probably advise that we plan for contingencies ... and he'd be right.