'The best ever'

IAAF's Lord Coe wants Bolt to help grow sport after retirement

Sunday, June 18, 2017

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As the curtain begins to come down on one of the most storied careers in track and field, one of the most powerful men in the sport, the President of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), Lord Sebastian Coe witnessed first-hand an emotional Jamaican send-off for sprinting sensation, Usain Bolt.

Retiring from the sport at the fairly young age of 30, Bolt almost single-handedly saved track and field, breathing new life, excitement and energy into a sport that was riddled with controversy and suspicion.

A young and enigmatic Bolt changed the face of the sport, especially through his interaction with fans, whether in person or though social media, creating a frenzy for more than a decade.

At the send-off party held inside the National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica, last week Saturday night, where Bolt ran his final competitive race, thousands of people packed the venue to see the legend perform one last time and they were not let down.

An emotional Lord Coe, himself a legend of the sport, was just as caught up in the occasion as everyone else.

“Just look at it,” he gushed. “If Usain decided to stay in this stadium and put a tent in the middle of the grass (field) for the next three weeks, everybody would stay here, nobody wants to go home, including me. There's nowhere else as federation president I would rather be, than in this stadium at this moment, right now.”

The four-time Olympics gold medallist said that Bolt's coming-out party at the Beijing Olympic Games remains the high point for himself in all the memories that he has seen the Jamaican create.

“My greatest memory of Usain Bolt is how he came on the scene in 2008 in Beijing. We knew he was good, we knew that he was the big performance athlete, [but] Beijing for me just sealed the deal. Then we knew he wasn't only the real thing, he was the best thing we had ever seen.”

The impact of the three-time Olympics double sprint champion on the sport of track and field is not lost on the track and field boss, who will be sticking close to the speedster once he steps off the track.

“We have had good conversations. I think we owe it to him to let him focus on the next few weeks then have a bit of downtime, but he has said he wants to remain engaged,” Coe revealed.

“The biggest challenge our sport has is to remain relevant and exciting in the lives of young people; he does that and he does it in spades. I think we need to figure out how he can help us grow the sport, how he can help us engage the young people, because he does that so well,” the IAAF boss admitted.

Track and field has seen phenomenal growth since the emergence of Bolt and his Jamaican colleagues, and the president expressed his concerns about how to remain on that same trajectory.

“That's why I am here, that is what I wake up every morning trying to figure out — when we have had people like Usian around and it has made my life easier. I wish he was 21,” he joked.

Coe, who is British, thinks that it is only fitting that Bolt will end his career at the World Championships in London.

“I think it (London) means a lot to him. It was his second Olympic Games, he loves being there at the training ground up in Birmingham, he has a massive following, not just amongst the Jamaican community. London is the world; he will feel as though he is running in front of the home crowd again and I am personally delighted that he is calling it a day in a World Championships. I think that is fitting,” he said.

Usain Bolt will be contesting only the 100m at the London World Championships, which will be held from August 4 to the 13.

— Dwayne Richards




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