Firefighter Bolt to his sport's rescue once more

Lightning strikes - literally - as Jamaican superstar extinguishes, at least for now, flames that threatened to consume athletics with thrilling win

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 August, 2013, 8:12am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 August, 2013, 3:40am

Lightning lit up the Moscow sky as Usain Bolt regained his 100 metres world title, the big Jamaican taking on the role of fireman, extinguishing flames that have threatened to consume the popular sport.

It is not the first time the 26-year-old superstar has come to athletics' rescue.

His record-breaking exploits at the Beijing Olympics, which saw him win three golds and break the 100m world record, served to divert attention away from the drug scandal involving the sport's one-time poster girl Marion Jones and her ex- boyfriend and former 100m world record holder Tim Montgomery.

Indeed at the time he was winning his three gold medals she was serving a six-month jail sentence for perjury over the scandal.

He also restored lustre to the title of Olympic 100m champion when predecessor Justin Gatlin was unable to defend his title as he was serving an initial eight-year doping ban - which was reduced to four.

Those two worlds - the good and the bad - collided on Sunday as Bolt overcame 31-year-old Gatlin, who returned to competition when his ban ended in 2010, to take the gold in 9.77 seconds, a season's best in heavy rain at the Luzhniki Stadium, with American Gatlin claiming silver in 9.85 seconds.

Then the two appeared to bury the hatchet - Bolt had in a rare moment of irritation described the American as "annoying" earlier this season - as Gatlin hugged him and graciously shook his hand.

Gatlin has served his time but defeating Bolt would not have been the script the organisers and sports authorities would have liked for there were other ghosts for the track star to lay to rest.

Bolt's recapture of his 100m title will drive into the background, for the moment at least, the doping scandal surrounding closest rival, and the second fastest man of all time, American Tyson Gay as well as Bolt's close friend Asafa Powell.

Bolt, though, has never been one to point the finger or to lambast someone for failing a test, preferring to refocus people's minds on his exploits on the track instead.

However, while the battle against doping and the seemingly endless sequence of positive tests - both at the top and the bottom - will go on, there is only a finite time left for Bolt to keep the sport on the front pages for the right reasons.

Bolt also has the common touch with the spectators, understanding that as well as competing in a sport it is also important to provide entertainment for the crowd.

And unlike other entertainers from the sporting world, who fall short when it comes to delivering titles, Bolt has an incredible ability to be able to play to the crowd before a final, then focus on his race and blitz the field.

He did not let them down on Sunday.

He mimed putting up an umbrella with heavy rain falling - and appropriately lightning bolts lit up the sky around the stadium - and stood there Charlie Chaplin-esque waiting to be called to the blocks.

He had them eating out of his hand and with the noise rising to levels where it would be difficult to hear the starter he raised his finger to his lips and the crowd went silent.

Bolt has made it clear why he feels obliged to give something back to the spectators.

"This is what I do. I've said it," he said. "A lot of people come out to see what I'm going to do today, tomorrow and it's fun for them.

"I enjoy showing them and giving them the joy I get out of doing this because they give me the energy to do it so I'm always hungry."