Commonwealth Games 2014: The remarkable Usain Bolt show moves closer to final act
Jamaican legend reveals career may end in London 2017
Sunday 03 August 2014
Usain Bolt was always going to steal athletics’ thunder. How could he not? Whatever he does, it’s the headline act, be it disparaging Glasgow, dancing to The Proclaimers or pounding down the racetrack leaving rivals flailing in his wake.
A total of 150 medals may have been awarded inside Hampden Park but it is a mere quarter of a medal – that of Bolt in the final act, the 4x100m relay – and the build-up to it that will remain the talking point of Glasgow 2014.
Glimpses of Bolt are becoming rarer. This was his only outing of 2014, although there will be races to follow on the Diamond League circuit. There were even fears that this might be the last time he competes on British soil.
But if tax breaks remain in place as they were last summer, he will return to the scene of his London 2012 triumphs for the World Championships in 2017 at the Olympic Stadium, which he hinted might well be where he brings an end to his career.
The Olympics in Rio de Janeiro – at the carnival capital of the world – would be a more fitting place to call time on a remarkable career but Bolt hinted that Stratford in 2017 could be his swansong.
“I might just go on to 2017 but I think that will be my last championships,” Bolt said. He might make it look like a stroll in the park but, after a winter struggling with a foot injury, he insisted it was anything but: “The training is not so easy. I remember asking MJ [Michael Johnson] why the time came for him to retire and he said, ‘When there’s nothing else to achieve’. I hate losing, so that’s when I will retire.”
On current form, and it is worth noting that Bolt is not even 100 per cent, defeats on the biggest stage seem unlikely even with the likes of Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay firing on all cylinders, although Nijel Amos proved that the seemingly unconquerable, – in his case David Rudisha in the 800m – are anything but.
While the wave of flashbulbs followed Bolt’s every move over two nights at Hampden, he was not the only athletics story as Kenya pipped Jamaica, both with 10 gold, to the top of the athletics medal table by virtue of more silver medals, while England had the highest medal count of 27.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect from an English perspective was the rich vein of sprinting talent. England’s fastest two men this year, Chijindu Ujah and James Dasaolu, were not even here but for a while the nation’s 4x100m quartet gave Jamaica something to think about. Adam Gemili won his first senior medal, a silver in the 100m, while the Williams sisters (Jodie and Bianca), as they were dubbed by some despite being no relation, took a surprise silver and bronze in the 200m.
Gemili has some way to go to catch the likes of Bolt but, at 20, he has shown himself to have at least one likeness to the world’s fastest man, a penchant for the big stage. In London 2012, Moscow 2013 and now Glasgow 2014, he has exceeded expectations. Zurich, which hosts the European Championships, could prove even better, with Gemili arguably the favourite to win the 200m title there.
On the night the athletics finished, Mike Hooper, CEO of the Commonwealth Games Federation, said: “Those who have not come have missed a fantastic party and we thank Glasgow for it.”
There was a party atmosphere inside Hampden from the outset and how they heralded their home heroes. It did not matter that Eilish McColgan finished sixth in the 3,000m steeplechase. Much as London spectators had done at the Olympics and Paralympics, she was treated as if she had eclipsed Kenya’s hegemony in the event.
McColgan, though, was eclipsed both in her race and by her Scottish counterparts, most notably Eilidh Child and Lynsey Sharp for their memorable silvers. There were tears from both: Child’s of relief as the poster girl of the Games, Sharp’s of disbelief, after she had been on a drip in hospital on the morning of her race.
Sharp’s backstory was the biggest tear-jerker of all, alongside that of her father Cameron, a Commonwealth gold medallist 36 years earlier but who suffered serious brain injuries in a car crash when Sharp was only a baby.
Similarly emotional was the tale of Jo Pavey’s bronze, running in the 5,000m just a month shy of her 41st birthday and 10 months after giving birth and 10 years after rooming with double Olympic gold medallist Kelly Holmes in Athens. Pavey’s son Jacob was in the stands to watch mum, daughter Emily at home with her mother-in-law.
“It is really special to think I am 40 with two children – one of them a 10-month old baby – I didn’t think I would maybe get the result,” Pavey said. “I am so happy and grateful.”
There were lows too: the failed tests of Wales 400m hurdler Rhys Williams beforehand and that of Botswana 400m runner Amantle Montsho during proceedings, both insisting there had been no wrongdoing on their part.
But both were forgotten by the time of the main event, the main man… that man Bolt.
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