Click here to print page

The world of track inspired by Mr Usain Bolt

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Those who watched the Olympic 400m final in Rio de Janeiro last year – whether live or on TV – aren't likely to forget it.

Way out in lane eight, the young South African Mr Wade van Niekerk went out very, very fast as if he was running the 200m. Many Jamaicans watching responded with a dismissive “im mad!” or something to that effect, for surely no one could hold that speed for 400m.

Yet at the end, not only had Mr van Niekerk maintained his speed and form, he had left the rest of the field in disarray.

Mr van Niekerk had clocked an unbelievable 43.08 seconds, blowing the great Mr Michael Johnson's long-standing 400m World Record of 43.18 to smithereens.

The South African crossed the line 0.73 of a second ahead of silver medallist Mr Kirani James – a huge difference by any measure.

That race has become a touchstone for 400m coaches and runners the world over, who are now exploring ways to extend top end speed over 400m for much longer than used to be the case.

Perhaps there is no greater tribute to Mr Usain Bolt than that Mr van Niekerk, and fellow world record holder, Kenyan Mr David Rudisha, are among a galaxy of stars for his Jamaican goodbye party tonight.

When Mr Bolt walks on to the National Stadium track for the second of two 100m races at the JN Racers Grand Prix, the anticipated capacity crowd will be seeing him for the very last time in a competitive race on Jamaican soil.

Of course, this is not the final goodbye to competition for Mr Bolt. That's reserved for London in August at the World Championships when he will represent Jamaica in the 100m – hoping to say farewell in style with yet another gold medal – nine years after taking the world by storm at the Beijing Olympics of 2008. Interestingly, Also saying goodbye in London will be the great Briton of East African extraction, Mr Mo Farah.

There has been much talk about the void which will be left with the retirement of Mr Bolt – who most people consider to be the greatest sprinter of all time.

Yet his legacy will live on in the many young stars now assertively strutting forth on the track who have been inspired by the example of the great Jamaican.

Note the words of Mr Rudisha as he spoke of Mr Bolt's legacy. “We are lucky to have Usain, he showed us the path, he showed us what is possible. He showed how to enjoy and make the most of it and have fun,” the great long distance runner said.

And what of Mr van Niekerk, who credits the inspiration provided by Mr Bolt as “massive”?

After his world record run in Rio, Mr van Niekerk spoke of his ambition of breaking the 43-second barrier.

“A window opened… When the clock stopped at 43.03 I had no choice but to think of going under 43. To dream of 43.02 would make no sense,” he said.

Now that's the Usain Bolt way. Those fortunate enough to get into the National Stadium tonight will get a glimpse of the world of track inspired by Mr Usain Bolt.