London - Usain Bolt's rivals will, for once, be glad to see
the back of a man who has dominated global sprinting for the last decade but
the sport of athletics will be far less enthusiastic about bidding a final
farewell to the charismatic Jamaican.
Bolt has completed the sprint double at the last three
Olympics and had he not been disqualified ahead of the 100 metres final at
Daegu in 2011, the 30-year-old could have matched that feat at the last four
In an era blighted by doping scandals, the Jamaican has
almost single-handedly kept the sport afloat but his commanding reign will come
to an end when he retires after next month's world championships, finally
allowing other sprinters a look-in.
In the simple matter of who will take his place at the top
of the 100 metres podium either at or after London, Canada's Olympic sprint
medallist Andre de Grasse appears to be just ahead of the pack as the leading
"(De Grasse) shows up when it counts. That's the mark
of a veteran. Even though he has been in the sport not too long," Justin
Gatlin, Olympic gold medallist in 2004 and runner-up behind Bolt in Rio last
South Africa also has a new generation of stars, led by
Akani Simbine and Thando Roto, although with their national championships
taking place in March, peaking twice in one season could hinder their hopes of
victory in London.
"It's difficult to be running fast in March and having
to peak for your nationals and still find a way to be ready at the middle of
August," former 200m world champion Ato Boldon said.
The door could also open for the United States, a
traditional sprint powerhouse but largely forgotten as a threat for a decade
since Gatlin and Tyson Gay tested positive for illegal drugs.
However, Christian Coleman put himself on the map when he
ran 9.82 seconds, the fastest time this year, during the US collegiate
championships, while Trayvon Bromell won bronze at the world championships two
years ago aged just 20.
But whether any athlete can come close to matching Bolt's
dominance and charisma is a different matter.
"You would have to have someone who is dominating, no
one is doing that," said Michael Johnson, former Olympic champion in the
200 metres and 400 metres.
"You would have to have someone who has something
special he has in terms of personality," the American said.
"In track and field, after I left, it wasn't like
somebody just stepped in. It was eight years before Bolt came along.
Johnson is one of those who feel the sport needs to work
harder at promoting itself rather than waiting for a "new Bolt" to
burst on the scene.
"I don't think the sport should depend on that,"
"If the federations don't want to have to promote the
sport itself, want to just ride the coattails of a great athlete, yeah it's
going to be hard.
"It's a great sport right here in front of all of us,
if we would just promote that, but that takes some work. It's not that