Sun | Jan 24, 2021

Change the relay schedule for Bolt

Published:Thursday | December 15, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Jamaica's Usain Bolt takes on the anchor leg after taking the baton from Michael Frater (left), as they sped to win gold in the men's 4x100m relay at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin on Saturday, August 22, 2009. - AP

Hubert Lawrence, Gleaner Writer

Now that Usain Bolt has read the London Olympic schedule, he doesn't sound too keen on running the 4x400 next year.

As pinpointed in this space a few weeks ago, the 4x400 final is near the end of a five-day sequence of non-stop sprinting facing the tall man in London.

While the 100 is contested on day two and three of the Games, he runs the 200 heats, semis and finals on days five, six and seven, and with the 4x400 final and the 4x100 final following on days eight and nine. If the 4x400 was in its traditional place as the last event of the Olympics, I am sure Bolt would run it.

He wouldn't have to worry about being too tired for the 4x100, where Jamaica are the defending champions and world record holders.

With the schedule as it is, he may have to choose between the relays. As things stand, Jamaica can probably win the 4x100 without him. The team won without Asafa Powell in Daegu at the 2011 World championships and Powell is a super anchorman. With a fit Powell, World champion Yohan Blake, speedy Nesta Carter and reliable Michael Frater, Jamaica has the speed and baton-passing skill to beat the world.

The 4x400 is a different matter. Only Jermaine Gonzales met the World Championships 400-metre 'A' qualifying standard of 45.25 seconds in 2011. Hopefully, Ricardo Chambers will be back to his 44.50 form in 2010, but that wouldn't scare the USA. The Americans dominate the event and hold all important 4x400 titles, indoors and outdoors, junior and senior.

Eye-opening relays

If Jamaica want to challenge the Americans in the 4x400, Bolt will have to run. He ran 44.4 at the 2004 Penn Relays not long after his world 200-metre junior record of 19.93 seconds at the Carifta Games, and 44-flat at the 2010 Gibson Relays in two eye-opening 4x400 relay carries.

The fastest relay carry for Jamaica's bronze medal team in Daegu was the 44.2-second run by Gonzales that put the black-green-and-gold boys in the lead and en route to bronze medals.

Usain's recent comments to suggest that the schedule will push him to the 4x100 only.

"I have looked at the schedule now and the 4x4 comes (a day) before the 4x1, so I don't think I would really want to chance it," he said. "But if I am fit enough and Jamaica has a good team I will probably try," he reasoned.

There is a solution - return the 4x400 to its traditional place as the last track event in the Olympics.

Many suspect that the IAAF, the governing body for world athletics, moved the 4x100 to last because of Bolt. Apparently, the decision makers wanted him to open the show, in the 100, and close it, in the 4x100. Now that it is publicly known that he wants to chase four gold medals in London, it's time to change the schedule back.

When Michael Johnson was the king of track and field, the American made it clear that he wanted to do a 400/200 double at the 1996 Olympics. He didn't relent until a schedule overlap between the two events was eliminated. Then he did the business, as the British say, with winning times of 43.49 and 19.32 seconds, respectively.

That change helped Marie-José Perec of France as she, too, did the 400/200 double.

Bolt is the big man of athletics now and his chase of four gold medals would be big news. There would be increased public interest since he would be trying to match the feat last achieved by America's Carl Lewis in 1984.

Someone - Usain or the JAAA - should ask the International Olympic Committee and the IAAF to simply have the men's 4x400 and 4x100 swap places on the London schedule. It won't hurt them because he will still be running the last event, and it won't hurt us to have the tall man speeding on the 4x400.

Hubert Lawrence has covered athletics since 1987.